Dynamics and characteristics of electric-field structures in the auroral return current region observed by Cluster
2006 (English)In: Physica Scripta, ISSN 0031-8949, E-ISSN 1402-4896, Vol. T122, 34-43 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The temporal evolution and other characteristics of intense quasi- static electric fields in the return current region are discussed using Cluster observations. A narrow- scale, divergent electric field, the high- altitude signature of a positive U- shaped potential structure, was observed at the poleward edge of the central plasma sheet, close to magnetic midnight at a geocentric distance of about 4.2 Earth radii. Its acceleration potential increased from less than 1 to 3 kV on a 100 s timescale, similar to the formation time for ionospheric plasma density holes, and consistent with previous results for this kind of structure. In the adjacent upward current region, an energy decrease in inverted- V ions was observed some minutes prior to this. The inverted- V potential decrease was roughly equal to the subsequent perpendicular potential increase in the return current region, suggesting that a potential redistribution took place between the two adjacent current branches. Other characteristics of this and three other return current structures are summarized, to illustrate both common and different features of these. The structures are characterized by ( all values have been mapped to the ionospheric level) peak electric- field magnitudes of approximate to 1Vm(-1), bipolar or unipolar profiles, occurrence at plasma boundaries associated with plasma density gradients, perpendicular scale sizes of approximate to 10 km, downward field-aligned currents of approximate to 10 mu A m(-2), and upward electron beams with characteristic energies of a few hundred to a few thousand eV. The bipolar and unipolar electric- field profiles are proposed to reflect whether plasma populations, dense enough to support upward field-aligned currents (by which the return current can close) exist on both sides, or on one side only of the boundary.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. T122, 34-43 p.
black aurora, intense, acceleration, polar, freja
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-15615DOI: 10.1088/0031-8949/2006/T122/008ISI: 000236918100008ScopusID: 2-s2.0-34547949457OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-15615DiVA: diva2:333657
QC 20100525 QC 20111003. Conference: 3rd Nordic Symposium on Plasma Physics. Lysebu, NORWAY. OCT 04-07, 20042010-08-052010-08-052012-03-20Bibliographically approved