Articles | Volume 21, issue 3
31 Mar 2003
 | 31 Mar 2003

Multi-instrument study of the dynamic cusp during dominant IMF By conditions

H. Khan, M. Lester, J. A. Davies, S. E. Milan, and P. E. Sandholt

Abstract. We present multi-instrument observations using the meridian scanning photometer (MSP) at NyAlesund, the EISCAT Svalbard radar (ESR) and the CUTLASS Finland HF radar, to investigate the dynamics of the cusp region during pulsed reconnection events. The optical data obtained from the MSP indicate the presence of several poleward-moving auroral forms (PMAFs) which have been previously identified as the auroral signature of pulsed reconnection. Furthermore, the optical green line (557.7 nm) luminosity indicates a loss of emission equatorward of the location of the onset of the PMAFs, characteristic of magnetospheric plasma escaping to the magnetosheath along newly opened field lines. This reduction in green line luminosity creates a "dark region", the equatorward edge of which is found to lie close to the boundary between high and low spectral widths observed by the CUTLASS Finland radar. High spectral widths on the dayside have previously been identified as a good indicator of cusp backscatter. Both of these boundaries have been suggested to provide an accurate representation of the location of the open/closed field line boundary. The ESR observations show enhancements in electron density and electron temperature occurring in conjunction with the optical PMAFs. The observations demonstrate some correspondence with the theoretical predictions of Davis and Lockwood (1996), who used an auroral precipitation model to predict ESR observations in the vicinity of the cusp. However, the limitations of this model are apparent under conditions of large plasma flows in the ionosphere. Finally, convection velocities obtained from the HF radar data illustrate a flow regime similar to that predicted to be driven by strong IMF By, as described by Cowley and Lockwood (1992), demonstrating an initial azimuthal flow followed by a rotation to more poleward directions.

Key words. Ionosphere (ionosphere-magnetosphere interactions; particle precipitation) – Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp and boundary layers)