Articles | Volume 22, issue 2
01 Jan 2004
 | 01 Jan 2004

Dayside aurora and the role of IMF ∣By∣/∣Bz∣: detailed morphology and response to magnetopause reconnection

P. E. Sandholt, C. J. Farrugia, and W. F. Denig

Abstract. We document the detailed spatio-temporal structure of the dayside aurora during intervals of ongoing dayside magnetopause reconnection, primarily during interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) Bz≤0 conditions. The present study is based on ground auroral observations in combination with particle precipitation data from a DMSP spacecraft. We describe auroral forms corresponding to the following particle precipitation regimes identified by Newell and Meng (1994): (i) central plasma sheet (CPS), (ii) precipitation void, (iii) dayside boundary plasma sheet (BPS), and (iv) cusp (LLBL/cusp/mantle). Two distinctly different auroral configurations are observed, corresponding to different regimes of the IMF clock angle (θ) and the ∣By∣/∣Bz∣ ratio. Two regimes are defined. In regime (I) θ lies within ∼ 90–135° and ∣By∣/∣Bz∣>1 (By-dominated), while in regime (II) θ is in the range 135°–180° and ∣By∣/∣Bz∣<1 (Bz-dominated). Within regime (I) the auroral response to reconnection events typically progresses from lower to higher latitudes in stages as indicated below: (A) equatorward boundary intensifications (EBIs): sequential brightenings of closely spaced, fragmented, rayed bands (BPS aurora) within the ∼08:00–15:00 MLT sector, each of which are moving noonward/sunward, (B) poleward moving auroral forms (PMAFs): forms expanding westward from the postnoon side (By>0) and later appearing as a poleward expanding form in the convection throat in the ∼09:00–12:00 MLT sector, with a fading phase in the regime of mantle precipitation. During strongly southward IMF conditions (regime II), the intense PMAF activity is replaced by a more latitudinally restricted, but longitudinally wide aurora of moderate intensity. The latter auroral state is accompanied by a 2-cell convection pattern which is rather symmetrical about noon. This state is very different from the convection/FAC configuration present during IMF regime (I), with its strong zonal flows (convection current), more intense FAC sheets and PMAF activity in the midday sector. The strong IMF regulation of the dayside BPS aurora, consisting of keV electrons, and its location with respect to the green line auroral gap (precipitation void), indicate that it is an important signature of the reconnection process, located on open boundary layer field lines. The observed longitudinal bifurcation of the auroral brightenings (EBIs) preceding PMAFs is consistent with antiparallel magnetopause reconnection.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (auroral phenomena magnetopause, cusp, and boundary layers: solar windmagnetosphere interactions) – Ionosphere (particle precipitation)