Articles | Volume 15, issue 10
31 Oct 1997
31 Oct 1997

Dayside isotropic precipitation of energetic protons

V. A. Sergeev, G. R. Bikkuzina, and P. T. Newell

Abstract. Recently it has been shown that isotropic precipitation of energetic protons on the nightside is caused by a non-adiabatic effect, namely pitch-angle scattering of protons in curved magnetic field lines of the tail current sheet. Here we address the origin of isotropic proton precipitation on the dayside. Computations of proton scattering regions in the magnetopheric models T87, T89 and T95 reveal two regions which contribute to the isotropic precipitation. The first is the region of weak magnetic field in the outer cusp which provides the 1–2° wide isotropic precipitation on closed field lines in a ~2–3 hour wide MLT sector centered on noon. A second zone is formed by the scattering on the closed field lines which cross the nightside equatorial region near the magnetopause which provides isotropic precipitation starting ≈ 1.5–2 h MLT from noon and which joins smoothly the precipitation coming from the tail current sheet. We also analyzed the isotropic proton precipitation using observations of NOAA low altitude polar spacecraft. We find that isotropic precipitation of >30 to >80 keV protons continues around noon forming the continuous oval-shaped region of isotropic precipitation. Part of this region lies on open field lines in the region of cusp-like or mantle precipitation, its equatorward part is observed on closed field lines. Near noon it extends ~1–2° below the sharp boundary of solar electron fluxes (proxy of the open/closed field line boundary) and equatorward of the cusp-like auroral precipitation. The observed energy dispersion of its equatorward boundary (isotropic boundary) agrees with model predictions of expected particle scattering in the regions of weak and highly curved magnetic field. We also found some disagreement with model computations. We did not observe the predicted split of the isotropic precipitation region into separate nightside and dayside isotropic zones. Also, the oval-like shape of the isotropic boundary has a symmetry line in 10–12 MLT sector, which with increasing activity rotates toward dawn while the latitude of isotropic boundary is decreasing. Our conclusion is that for both dayside and nightside the isotropic boundary location is basically controlled by the magnetospheric magnetic field, and therefore the isotropic boundaries can be used as a tool to probe the magnetospheric configuration in different external conditions and at different activity levels.