Articles | Volume 21, issue 11
30 Nov 2003
 | 30 Nov 2003

The use of iron charge state changes as a tracer for solar wind entry and energization within the magnetosphere

T. A. Fritz, T. H. Zurbuchen, G. Gloeckler, S. Hefti, and J. Chen

Abstract. The variation of the charge state of iron [Fe] ions is used to trace volume elements of plasma in the solar wind into the magnetosphere and to determine the time scales associated with the entry into and the action of the magnetospheric energization process working on these plasmas. On 2–3 May 1998 the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft located at the L1 libration point observed a series of changes to the average charge state of the element Fe in the solar wind plasma reflecting variation in the coronal temperature of their original source. Over the period of these two days the average Fe charge state was observed to vary from + 15 to + 6 both at the Polar satellite in the high latitude dayside magnetosphere and at ACE. During a period of southward IMF the observations at Polar inside the magnetosphere of the same Fe charge state were simultaneous with those at ACE delayed by the measured convection speed of the solar wind to the subsolar magnetopause. Comparing the phase space density as a function of energy at both ACE and Polar has indicated that significant energization of the plasma occurred on very rapid time scales. Energization at constant phase space density by a factor of 5 to 10 was observed over a range of energy from a few keV to about 1 MeV. For a detector with a fixed energy threshold in the range from 10 keV to a few hundred keV this observed energization will appear as a factor of ~103 increase in its counting rate. Polar observations of very energetic O+ ions at the same time indicate that this energization process must be occurring in the high latitude cusp region inside the magnetosphere and that it is capable of energizing ionospheric ions at the same time.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp, and boundary layers; magnetospheric configuration and dynamics; solar wind-magnetosphere interactions)