Magnetospheric source region of discrete auroras inferred from their relationship with isotropy boundaries of energetic particles
Abstract. According to observations, the discrete auroral arcs can sometimes be found, either deep inside the auroral oval or at the poleward border of the wide (so-called double) auroral oval, which map to very different regions of the magnetotail. To find common physical conditions for the auroral-arc generation in these magnetotail regions, we study the spatial relationship between the diffuse and discrete auroras and the isotropic boundaries (IBs) of the precipitating energetic particles which can be used to characterise locally the equatorial magnetic field in the tail. From comparison of ground observation of auroral forms with meridional profiles of particle flux measured simultaneously by the low-altitude NOAA satellites above the ground observation region, we found that (1) discrete auroral arcs are always situated polewards from (or very close to) the IB of >30-keV electrons, whereas (2) the IB of the >30-keV protons is often seen inside the diffuse aurora. These relationships hold true for both quiet and active (substorm) conditions in the premidnight-nightside (18-01-h) MLT sector considered. In some events the auroral arcs occupy a wide latitudinal range. The most equatorial of these arcs was found at the poleward edge of the diffuse auroras (but anyway in the vicinity of the electron IB), the most poleward arcs were simultaneously observed on the closed field lines near the polar-cap boundary. These observations disagree with the notion that the discrete aurora originate exclusively in the near-Earth portion of plasma sheet or exclusively on the PSBL field lines. Result (1) may imply a fundamental feature of auroral-arc formation: they originate in the current-sheet regions having very curved and tailward-stretched magnetic field lines.