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On high-altitude electric fields in the auroral downward current region and their coupling to ionospheric electric fields
KTH, School of Electrical Engineering (EES), Space and Plasma Physics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1594-1861
2010 (English)In: Advances in Space Research, ISSN 0273-1177, Vol. 46, no 4, 440-448 p.Article in journal (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. Other 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 high-altitude Cluster observations with particular emphasis on the characteristics and dynamics of quasi-static electric field structures. These, extending up to altitudes of at least 4-5 Earth radii, appear commonly as monopolar or bipolar electric fields. The former occur at sharp boundaries, such as the polar cap boundary whereas the bipolar fields occur at softer 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 electric field structures and of ionospheric plasma density cavities are closely coupled processes. A related feature of the downward current 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 are typically 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 electric field coupling further depends on the current-voltage relationship, which is highly non-linear in the downward current region, and still unrevealed, as to its specific form. (C) 2009 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 46, no 4, 440-448 p.
Keyword [en]
Electric fields, Field-align currents, Aurora, Ionospheric electric fields, Magnetosphere
National Category
Aerospace Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-26863DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2008.08.024ISI: 000280940500010ScopusID: 2-s2.0-77955421591OAI: diva2:373707
QC 20101201Available from: 2010-12-01 Created: 2010-11-29 Last updated: 2010-12-01Bibliographically approved

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