On the possible role of cusp/cleft precipitation in the formation of polar-cap patches
Abstract. The work describes experimental observations of enhancements in the electron density of the ionospheric F-region created by cusp/cleft particle precipitation at the dayside entry to the polar-cap convection flow. Measurements by meridian scanning photometer and all-sky camera of optical red-line emissions from aurora are used to identify latitudinally narrow bands of soft-particle precipitation responsible for structured enhancements in electron density determined from images obtained by radio tomography. Two examples are discussed in which the electron density features with size scales and magnitudes commensurate with those of patches are shown to be formed by precipitation at the entry region to the anti-sunward flow. In one case the spectrum of the incoming particles results in ionisation being created, for the most part below 250 km, so that the patch will persist only for minutes after convecting away from the auroral source region. However in a second example, at a time when the plasma density of the solar wind was particularly high, a substantial part of the particle-induced enhancement formed above 250 km. It is suggested that, with the reduced recombination loss in the upper F-region, this structure will retain form as a patch during passage in the anti-sunward flow across the polar cap.
Key words. Ionosphere (ionospheric irregularities; particle precipitation; polar ionosphere)