Articles | Volume 19, issue 10/12
Special issue:
30 Sep 2001
 | 30 Sep 2001

First results from the Cluster wideband plasma wave investigation

D. A. Gurnett, R. L. Huff, J. S. Pickett, A. M. Persoon, R. L. Mutel, I. W. Christopher, C. A. Kletzing, U. S. Inan, W. L. Martin, J.-L. Bougeret, H. St. C. Alleyne, and K. H. Yearby

Abstract. In this report we present the first results from the Cluster wideband plasma wave investigation. The four Cluster spacecraft were successfully placed in closely spaced, high-inclination eccentric orbits around the Earth during two separate launches in July – August 2000. Each spacecraft includes a wideband plasma wave instrument designed to provide high-resolution electric and magnetic field wave-forms via both stored data and direct downlinks to the NASA Deep Space Network. Results are presented for three commonly occurring magnetospheric plasma wave phenomena: (1) whistlers, (2) chorus, and (3) auroral kilometric radiation. Lightning-generated whistlers are frequently observed when the spacecraft is inside the plasmasphere. Usually the same whistler can be detected by all spacecraft, indicating that the whistler wave packet extends over a spatial dimension at least as large as the separation distances transverse to the magnetic field, which during these observations were a few hundred km. This is what would be expected for nonducted whistler propagation. No case has been found in which a strong whistler was detected at one spacecraft, with no signal at the other spacecraft, which would indicate ducted propagation. Whistler-mode chorus emissions are also observed in the inner region of the magnetosphere. In contrast to lightning-generated whistlers, the individual chorus elements seldom show a one-to-one correspondence between the spacecraft, indicating that a typical chorus wave packet has dimensions transverse to the magnetic field of only a few hundred km or less. In one case where a good one-to-one correspondence existed, significant frequency variations were observed between the spacecraft, indicating that the frequency of the wave packet may be evolving as the wave propagates. Auroral kilometric radiation, which is an intense radio emission generated along the auroral field lines, is frequently observed over the polar regions. The frequency-time structure of this radiation usually shows a very good one-to-one correspondence between the various spacecraft. By using the microsecond timing available at the NASA Deep Space Net-work, very-long-baseline radio astronomy techniques have been used to determine the source of the auroral kilometric radiation. One event analyzed using this technique shows a very good correspondence between the inferred source location, which is assumed to be at the electron cyclotron frequency, and a bright spot in the aurora along the magnetic field line through the source.

Key words. Ionosphere (wave-particle interactions; wave propagation) – Magnetospheric physics (plasma waves and instabilities; instruments and techniques)

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