Astrid-2 and ground-based observations of the auroral bulge in the middle of the nightside convection throat
Abstract. Results concerning the electrodynamics of the nightside auroral bulge are presented based on simultaneous satellite and ground-based observations. The satellite data include Astrid-2 measurements of electric fields, currents and particles from a midnight auroral oval crossing and Polar UVI images of the large-scale auroral distribution. The ground-based observations include STARE and SuperDARN electric fields and magnetic records from the Greenland and MIRACLE magnetometer network, the latter including stations from northern Scandinavia north to Svalbard. At the time of the Astrid-2 crossing the ground-based data reveal intense electrojet activity, both to the east and west of the Astrid-2 trajectory, related to the Polar observations of the auroral bulge but not necessarily to a typical substorm. The energetic electron fluxes measured by Astrid-2 across the auroral oval were generally weak being consistent with a gap observed in the auroral luminosity distribution. The electric field across the oval was directed westward, intensifying close to the poleward boundary followed by a decrease in the polar cap. The combined observations suggests that Astrid-2 was moving close to the separatrix between the dusk and dawn convection cells in a region of low conductivity. The constant westward direction of the electric field across the oval indicates that current continuity was maintained, not by polarisation electric fields (as in a Cowling channel), but solely by localized up- and downward field-aligned currents in good agreement with the Astrid-2 magnetometer data. The absence of a polarisation electric field and thus of an intense westward closure current between the dawn and dusk convection cells is consistent with the relatively weak precipitation and low conductivity in the convection throat. Thus, the Cowling current model is not adequate for describing the electrodynamics of the nightside auroral bulge treated here.
Key words. Ionosphere (auroral ionosphere; electric fields and currents; plasma convection)