On low-altitude particle acceleration and intense electric fields and their relationship to black aurora
1997 (English)In: JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SPACE PHYSICS, ISSN 0148-0227, Vol. 102, no A8, 17509-17522 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Recent findings by the Freja satellite have shown the existence of extremely intense (1-2 V/m) and small-scale (1 km) diverging electric fields which are interpreted to be associated with east-west aligned dark striations or black auroral curls. Precipitating or transversely energized ions, downward field-aligned currents carried by upward fluxes of ionospheric electrons and dropouts of energetic electron precipitation, are found to be characteristic features of such events. A comparison of these characteristics to those of the aurora point at a symmetry between the aurora and the black aurora, the aurora being associated with negative divergence of the electric field and the black aurora with positive divergence. The diverging field events typically occur during winter conditions within the midnight to early morning sector of the auroral oval. Estimates of the ambient conductivity due to solar EUV radiation for each of these events show a clear anticorrelation with the electric field magnitude. The black auroral structures are likely to be associated with localized ionospheric density depletions below that of the ambient density and caused by the upward flow of ionospheric electrons. The efficiency by which such density holes are created in regions of downward field-aligned current flow have recently been demonstrated in model studies. The electric field magnitudes are found to decrease with the scale size, not inversely as suggested in recent theoretical work but with a power law exponent of 0.6-0.8. At lower altitudes (around 800 km) the maximum intensities for a majority of the events are in the range of values that have been reported from rocket and radar measurements in the ionosphere, i.e., around 150-200 mV/m. However, close to magnetic midnight and during winter conditions small-scale diverging electric fields of 1 V/m are occasionally found to exist down to at least 800 km. We suggest that the diverging electric fields observed by Freja are associated with low-altitude and narrow ( approximate to 1-2 km) potential structures similar to the auroral potential structures at higher altitude but associated with a positive space charge and a downward parallel electric field. This is supported by Freja observations of narrow upward beams of 2 keV electrons in good agreement with a 2 kV positive peak in the electrostatic potential for a black aurora event. The existence of a downward parallel electric field at low altitudes is also supported by low-altitude observations by the S3-3 and Viking satellites. If such low-altitude potential structures do exist as our results suggest, an outstanding problem for future investigation is how they may be formed and maintained.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
1997. Vol. 102, no A8, 17509-17522 p.
Engineering and Technology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-13711ISI: A1997XP07100027OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-13711DiVA: diva2:326728
QC 201006242010-06-242010-06-242010-06-24Bibliographically approved