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Electric Fields and Plasma Processes in the Auroral Downward Current Region, Below, Within, and Above the Acceleration Region
KTH, School of Electrical Engineering (EES), Space and Plasma Physics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1594-1861
2009 (English)In: Space Science Reviews, ISSN 0038-6308, E-ISSN 1572-9672, Vol. 142, no 1-4, 1-21 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The downward field-aligned current region plays an active role in magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling processes associated with aurora. A quasi-static electric field structure with a downward parallel electric field forms at altitudes between 800 km and 5000 km, accelerating ionospheric electrons upward, away from the auroral ionosphere. A wealth of related phenomena, including energetic ion conics, electron solitary waves, low-frequency wave activity, and plasma density cavities occur in this region, which also acts as a source region for VLF saucers. Results are presented from sounding rockets and satellites, such as Freja, FAST, Viking, and Cluster, to illustrate the characteristics of the electric fields and related parameters, at altitudes below, within, and above the acceleration region. Special emphasis will be on the high-altitude characteristics and dynamics of quasi-static electric field structures observed by Cluster. These structures, which extend up to altitudes of at least 4-5 Earth radii, appear commonly as monopolar or bipolar electric fields. The former are found to occur at sharp boundaries, such as the polar cap boundary whereas the bipolar fields occur at soft plasma boundaries within the plasma sheet. The temporal evolution of quasi-static electric field structures, as captured by the pearls-on-a-string configuration of the Cluster spacecraft indicates that the formation of the electric field structures and of ionospheric plasma density cavities are closely coupled processes. A related feature of the downward current often seen is a broadening of the current sheet with time, possibly related to the depletion process. Preliminary studies of the coupling of electric fields in the downward current region, show that small-scale structures appear to be decoupled from the ionosphere, similar to what has been found for the upward current region. However, exceptions are also found where small-scale electric fields couple perfectly between the ionosphere and Cluster altitudes. Recent FAST results indicate that the degree of coupling differs between sheet-like and curved structures, and that it is typically partial. The mapping depends on the current-voltage relationship in the downward current region, which is highly non-linear and still unclear, as to its specific form.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 142, no 1-4, 1-21 p.
Keyword [en]
Auroral electric field, Auroral particle acceleration, Auroral, processes, Satellite observations, Cluster observations, Auroral, downward current, Electric field coupling, return current region, particle-acceleration, double-layers, black, aurora, cluster, arcs, magnetosphere, evolution, freja, zone
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-18124DOI: 10.1007/s11214-008-9373-9ISI: 000262684900001ScopusID: 2-s2.0-58849132924OAI: diva2:336170
QC 20100525Available from: 2010-08-05 Created: 2010-08-05 Last updated: 2011-01-12Bibliographically approved

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Marklund, Göran T.
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