Articles | Volume 19, issue 5
31 May 2001
 | 31 May 2001

Structure of the auroral precipitation region in the dawn sector: relationship to convection reversal boundaries and field-aligned currents

Y. I. Feldstein, L. I. Gromova, J. Woch, I. Sandahl, L. Blomberg, G. Marklund, and C.-I. Meng

Abstract. Abstract. Simultaneous DMSP F7 and Viking satellite measurements of the dawnside high-latitude auroral energy electron and ion precipitation show that the region of the low and middle altitude auroral precipitation consists of three characteristic plasma regimes. The recommendation of the IAGA Working Group IIF/III4 at the IAGA Assembly in Boulder, July 1995 to decouple the nomenclature of ionospheric populations from magnetospheric population is used for their notation. The most equatorial regime is the Diffuse Auroral Zone (DAZ) of diffuse spatially unstructured precipitating electrons. It is generated by the plasma injection to the inner magnetosphere in the nightside and the subsequent drift plasma to the dawnside around the Earth. Precipitating particles have a hard spectrum with typical energies of electrons and ions of more than 3 keV. In the DAZ, the ion pitch-angle distribution is anisotropic, with the peak near 90°. The next part is the Auroral Oval (AO), a structured electron regime which closely resembles the poleward portion of the night-side auroral oval. The typical electron energy is several keV, and the ion energy is up to 10 keV. Ion distributions are pre-dominantly isotropic. In some cases, this plasma regime may be absent in the pre-noon sector. Poleward of the Auroral Oval, there is the Soft Small Scale Luminosity (SSSL) regime. It is caused by structured electron and ion precipitation with typical electron energy of about 0.3 keV and ion energy of about 1 keV. The connection of these low-altitude regimes with plasma domains of the distant magnetosphere is discussed. For mapping of the plasma regimes to the equatorial plane of the magnetosphere, the empirical model by Tsyganenko (1995) and the conceptual model by Alexeev et al. (1996) are used. The DAZ is mapped along the magnetic field lines to the Remnant Layer (RL), which is located in the outer radiation belt region; the zone of structured electrons and isotropic ion precipitation (AO) is mapped to the dawn periphery of the Central Plasma Sheet (CPS); the soft small scale structured precipitation (SSSL) is mapped to the outer magnetosphere close to the magnetopause, i.e. the Low Latitude Boundary Layer (LLBL). In the near-noon sector, earthward fluxes of soft electrons, which cause the Diffuse Red Aurora (DRA), are observed. The ion energies decrease with increasing latitude. The plasma spectra of the DRA regime are analogous to the spectra of the Plasma Mantle (PM). In the dawn sector, the large-scale field-aligned currents flow into the ionosphere at the SSSL latitudes (Region 1) and flow out at the AO or DAZ latitudes (Region 2). In the dawn and dusk sectors, the large-scale Region 1 and Region 2 FAC generation occurs in different plasma domains of the distant magnetosphere. The dawn and dusk FAC connection to the traditional Region 1 and Region 2 has only formal character, as FAC generating in various magnetospheric plasma domains integrate in the same region (Region 1 or Region 2). In the SSSL, there is anti-sunward convection; in the DAZ and the AO, there is the sunward convection. At PM latitudes, the convection is controlled by the azimuthal IMF component (By ). It is suggested to extend the notation of the plasma pattern boundaries, as proposed by Newell et al. (1996), for the nightside sector of the auroral oval to the dawn sector.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (current systems; magnetospheric configuration and dynamics; plasma convection)