Articles | Volume 24, issue 3
Ann. Geophys., 24, 1099–1112, 2006
Ann. Geophys., 24, 1099–1112, 2006

  19 May 2006

19 May 2006

Characteristics of high altitude oxygen ion energization and outflow as observed by Cluster: a statistical study

H. Nilsson1, M. Waara1, S. Arvelius1, O. Marghitu3,2, M. Bouhram2,*, Y. Hobara1,**, M. Yamauchi1, R. Lundin1, H. Rème4, J.-A. Sauvaud4, I. Dandouras4, A. Balogh5, L. M. Kistler6, B. Klecker2, C. W. Carlson7, M. B. Bavassano-Cattaneo8, and A. Korth9 H. Nilsson et al.
  • 1Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden
  • 2Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestriche Physik, Garching, Germany
  • 3Institute for Space Sciences, Bucharest, Romania
  • 4Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, Toulouse, France
  • 5Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK
  • 6University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA
  • 7Space Science Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • 8Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario, Roma, Italy, USA
  • 9Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
  • *now at: CETP-CNRS, Saint-Maur, France
  • **now at: University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Abstract. The results of a statistical study of oxygen ion outflow using Cluster data obtained at high altitude above the polar cap is reported. Moment data for both hydrogen ions (H+) and oxygen ions (O+) from 3 years (2001-2003) of spring orbits (January to May) have been used. The altitudes covered were mainly in the range 5–12 RE geocentric distance. It was found that O+ is significantly transversely energized at high altitudes, indicated both by high perpendicular temperatures for low magnetic field values as well as by a tendency towards higher perpendicular than parallel temperature distributions for the highest observed temperatures. The O+ parallel bulk velocity increases with altitude in particular for the lowest observed altitude intervals. O+ parallel bulk velocities in excess of 60 km s-1 were found mainly at higher altitudes corresponding to magnetic field strengths of less than 100 nT. For the highest observed parallel bulk velocities of O+ the thermal velocity exceeds the bulk velocity, indicating that the beam-like character of the distribution is lost. The parallel bulk velocity of the H+ and O+ was found to typically be close to the same throughout the observation interval when the H+ bulk velocity was calculated for all pitch-angles. When the H+ bulk velocity was calculated for upward moving particles only the H+ parallel bulk velocity was typically higher than that of O+. The parallel bulk velocity is close to the same for a wide range of relative abundance of the two ion species, including when the O+ ions dominates. The thermal velocity of O+ was always well below that of H+. Thus perpendicular energization that is more effective for O+ takes place, but this is not enough to explain the close to similar parallel velocities. Further parallel acceleration must occur. The results presented constrain the models of perpendicular heating and parallel acceleration. In particular centrifugal acceleration of the outflowing ions, which may provide the same parallel velocity increase to the two ion species and a two-stream interaction are discussed in the context of the measurements.