Meso-scale aurora within the expansion phase bulge
Abstract. We present ground-based optical, riometer and magnetometer recordings together with Polar UVI and GOES magnetic field observations of a substorm that occurred over Canada on 24 November 1997. This event involved a clear optical onset followed by poleward motion of the aurora as a signature of an expanding auroral bulge. During the expansion phase, there were three distinct types of meso-scale (10–1000 km) auroral structures embedded in the bulge: at first a series of equatorward moving auroral arcs, followed by a well-defined spiral pair, and finally north-south directed aurora (a streamer). The spirals occurred several minutes after the onset, and indicate a shear in the field-aligned current. The north-south aligned aurora that formed about 10 min after the onset suggest bursty bulk flow type flows taking place in the central plasma sheet. Polar UVI observations of the polar cap location indicate that the southward drifting arcs were associated with magnetospheric activity within closed field lines, while the auroral streamer was launched by the bulge reaching the polar cap boundary, i.e. the mid-tail reconnection starting on the open field lines. The riometer data imply high energy electron precipitation in the vicinity of the the poleward moving edge of the auroral bulge, starting at the onset and continuing until the formation of the north-south structure. In this paper, we examine this evolving auroral morphology within the context of substorm theories.