Potential merits for substorm research from imaging of charge-exchange neutral atoms
Abstract. The in situ observations of the Earth magnetosphere performed over the past decades of space research have provided a rather good understanding of many partial localized processes of the magnetospheric substorm. The continuing lack of global observations inhibits the construction of a coherent picture of the substorm as a whole, which is actually determined by the coupling of the partial processes. In this context the importance of global observations for the advancement of magnetospheric substorm studies is critical. This paper presents briefly a promising technique of global observations, namely the imaging of charge exchange neutral atoms, or neutral atom imaging (NAI) of the magnetosphere. Model and theoretical estimates of charge-exchange neutral atom fluxes, as well as appropriate spacecraft orbit and instrumentation requirements are presented and discussed for specific regions of interest and vantage points. The potential merits of NAI for substorm research are presented along with possible combinations with other types of observational methods. Substorm issues that would benefit from NAI should include among others the assessment of the ionospheric contribution to the hot magnetospheric plasma, the relative importance of various ionospheric ion source regions, the resolution of spatial and temporal characteristics of substorm ion injections. NAI observations can be precious complements to local observations and lead to the understanding of how local processes, many of which are resolved quite well today, combine to form the global process of the magnetospheric substorm.