Multiple current sheets in a double auroral oval observed from the MAGION-2 and MAGION-3 satellites
Abstract. A case is described of multiple current sheets crossed by the MAGION-2 satellite in the near-midnight quieting auroral oval. The data were obtained by the magnetometer experiment onboard. Results show during a quieting period after a preceding substorm, or during an early growth phase of the next substorm, two double-sheet current bands, POLB and EQUB, located at respectively the polar and equatorial borders of the auroral oval separated by about 500 km in latitude. This is consistent with the double-oval structure during recovery introduced by Elphinstone et al. (1995). Within the POLB, the magnetic field data show simultaneous existence of several narrow parallel bipolar current sheets within the upward current branch (at 69.5–70.3° invariant latitude) with an adjacent downward current branch at its polar side at (70.5–71.3°). The EQUB was similarly stratified and located at 61.2–63.5° invariant latitude. The narrow current sheets were separated on average by about 35 km and 15 km, respectively, within the POLB and EQUB. A similar case of double-oval current bands with small-scale structuring of their upward current branches during a quieting period is found in the data from the MAGION-3 satellite. These observations contribute to the double-oval structure of the late recovery phase, and add a small-scale structuring of the upward currents producing the auroral arcs in the double- oval pattern, at least for the cases presented here. Other observations of multiple auroral current sheets and theories of auroral arc multiplicity are briefly discussed. It is suggested that multiple X-lines in the distant tail, and/or leakage of energetic particles and FA currents from a series of plasmoids formed during preceding magnetic activity, could be one cause of highly stratified upward FA currents at the polar edge of the quieting double auroral oval.