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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 2/3
Ann. Geophys., 12, 152–168, 1994
© European Geosciences Union 1994
Ann. Geophys., 12, 152–168, 1994
© European Geosciences Union 1994

  31 Jan 1994

31 Jan 1994

Solar wind contribution to the average population of energetic He+ and He++ ions in the Earth's magnetosphere

G. Kremser, R. Rasinkangas, P. Tanskanen, B. Wilken, and G. Gloeckler G. Kremser et al.

Abstract. Measurements with the ion charge-energy-mass spectrometer CHEM on the AMPTE/CCE spacecraft were used to investigate the origin of energetic He+ and He++ ions observed in the equatorial plane at 3 ≤ L ≤ 9. Special emphasis was laid on the dependence of long-term average distributions on magnetic local time (MLT) and the geomagnetic activity index Kp. The observations are described in terms of the phase space densities f1 (for He+) and f2 (for He++). They confirm preliminary results from a previous study: f1 is independent of MLT, whereas f2 is much larger on the nightside than on the dayside. They show, furthermore, that f1 increases slightly with Kp on intermediate drift shells, but decreases on high drift shells (L ≥ 7). f2 increases with Kp on all drift shells outside the premidnight sector. Within this sector a decrease is observed on high drift shells. A simple ion tracing code was developed to determine how and from where the ions move into the region of observations. It provides ion trajectories as a function of the ion charge, the magnetic moment and Kp. The ion tracing enables a distinction between regions of closed drift orbits (ring current) and open convection trajectories (plasma sheet). It also indicates how the outer part of the observation region is connected to different parts of the more distant plasma sheet. Observations and tracing show that He++ ions are effectively transported from the plasma sheet on convection trajectories. Their distribution in the observation region corresponds to the distribution of solar wind ions in the plasma sheet. Thus, energetic He++ ions most likely originate in the solar wind. On the other hand, the plasma sheet is not an important source of energetic He+ ions. Convection trajectories more likely constitute a sink for He+ ions, which may diffuse onto them from closed drift orbits and then get lost through the magnetopause. An ionospheric origin of energetic He+ ions is unlikely as well, since the source mechanism should be almost independent of Kp. There is considerable doubt, however, that a plausible mechanism also exists during quiet periods that can accelerate ions to ring current energies, while extracting them from the ionosphere. It is concluded, therefore, that energetic He+ ions are mainly produced by charge exchange processes from He++ ions. This means that most of the energetic He+ ions constituting the average distributions also very likely originate in the solar wind. Additional ionospheric contributions are possible during disturbed periods.

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