Global observations of the zonal drift speed of equatorial ionospheric plasma bubbles
- 1Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California Berkeley, USA
- 2Communications Research Laboratory, Tokyo, Japan
Abstract. Space-based measurements from an imager aboard the high-apogee NASA-IMAGE satellite allows for global-scale observations of nightside ionospheric densities and structure. Such a view cannot be provided by imagers in near-Earth orbit or based on the ground. The IMAGE Spectroscopic Imager (SI) isolates the Far-ultraviolet (FUV) O I 135.6nm emission which is produced through radiative recombination of O+. These observations clearly show the distribution of FUV emissions of the equatorial airglow bands over the range of local times between the evening terminator to points well after midnight. Determination of plasma drift speeds in these local time sectors is performed by identification and subsequent tracking of localized depressions in the FUV emissions. This determination is made for nearly 200 plasma bubbles in the March-May period of 2002. Important findings of this study include (1) an unambiguous association between Dst and zonal plasma drift speeds, and (2) a longitudinal dependence of the zonal plasma drift speeds, with a peak around the Indian sector. The first effect is attributed to penetrating ring current electric fields, while the second is apparently due to a longitudinal variability in the vertical polarization electric fields that directly affects the zonal plasma drift speeds.