Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Special issue:
30 Sep 1998
30 Sep 1998

The ion experiment onboard the Interball-Aurora satellite; initial results on velocity-dispersed structures in the cleft and inside the auroral oval

J. A. Sauvaud, H. Barthe, C. Aoustin, J. J. Thocaven, J. Rouzaud, E. Penou, D. Popescu, R. A. Kovrazhkin, and K. G. Afanasiev

Abstract. The Toulouse ION experiment flown on the Russian Interball-Aurora mission performs simultaneous ion and electron measurements. Two mass spectrometers looking in opposing directions perpendicular to the satellite spin axis, which points toward the sun, measure ions in the mass and energy ranges 1–32 amu and ~0–14 000 eV. Two electron spectrometers also looking in opposing directions perform measurements in the energy range ~10 eV–20 000 eV. The Interball-Aurora spacecraft was launched on 29 August 1996 into a 62.8° inclination orbit with an apogee of ~3 RE. The satellite orbital period is 6 h, so that every four orbits the satellite sweeps about the same region of the auroral zone; the orbit plane drifts around the pole in ~9 months. We present a description of the ION experiment and discuss initial measurements performed in the cusp near noon, in the polar cleft at dusk, and inside the proton aurora at dawn. Ion-dispersed energy structures resulting from time-of-flight effects are observed both in the polar cleft at ~16 hours MLT and in the dawnside proton aurora close to 06 hours MLT. Magnetosheath plasma injections in the polar cleft, which appear as overlapping energy bands in particle energy-time spectrograms, are traced backwards in time using a particle trajectory model using 3D electric and magnetic field models. We found that the cleft ion source is located at distances of the order of 18 RE from the earth at about 19 MLT, i.e., on the flank of the magnetopause. These observations are in agreement with flux transfer events (FTE) occurring not only on the front part of the magnetopause but also in a region extending at least to dusk. We also show that, during quiet magnetic conditions, time-of-flight ion dispersions can also be measured inside the dawn proton aurora. A method similar to that used for the cleft is applied to these auroral energy dispersion signatures. Unexpectedly, the ion source is found to be at distances of the order of 60–80 RE, at the dawn flank of the magnetosphere. These results are discussed in terms of possible entry, acceleration, and precipitation mechanisms.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics · Auroral phenomena · Energetic particles · Magnetopause · cusp · and boundary layers · Interball-Aurora satellite.

Special issue