Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
31 Dec 1997
31 Dec 1997

Energy and pitch-angle dispersions of LLBL/cusp ions seen at middle altitudes: predictions by the open magnetosphere model

M. Lockwood

Abstract. Numerical simulations are presented of the ion distribution functions seen by middle-altitude spacecraft in the low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL) and cusp regions when reconnection is, or has recently been, taking place at the equatorial magnetopause. From the evolution of the distribution function with time elapsed since the field line was opened, both the observed energy/observation-time and pitch-angle/energy dispersions are well reproduced. Distribution functions showing a mixture of magnetosheath and magnetospheric ions, often thought to be a signature of the LLBL, are found on newly opened field lines as a natural consequence of the magnetopause effects on the ions and their flight times. In addition, it is shown that the extent of the source region of the magnetosheath ions that are detected by a satellite is a function of the sensitivity of the ion instrument . If the instrument one-count level is high (and/or solar-wind densities are low), the cusp ion precipitation detected comes from a localised region of the mid-latitude magnetopause (around the magnetic cusp), even though the reconnection takes place at the equatorial magnetopause. However, if the instrument sensitivity is high enough, then ions injected from a large segment of the dayside magnetosphere (in the relevant hemisphere) will be detected in the cusp. Ion precipitation classed as LLBL is shown to arise from the low-latitude magnetopause, irrespective of the instrument sensitivity. Adoption of threshold flux definitions has the same effect as instrument sensitivity in artificially restricting the apparent source region

Key words. Low-latitude boundary layer · Cusp regions · Open magnetosphere model · Mid-altitudes