Articles | Volume 24, issue 10
20 Oct 2006
 | 20 Oct 2006

Energy-dispersed ions in the plasma sheet boundary layer and associated phenomena: Ion heating, electron acceleration, Alfvén waves, broadband waves, perpendicular electric field spikes, and auroral emissions

A. Keiling, G. K. Parks, H. Rème, I. Dandouras, M. Wilber, L. Kistler, C. Owen, A. N. Fazakerley, E. Lucek, M. Maksimovic, and N. Cornilleau-Wehrlin

Abstract. Recent Cluster studies reported properties of multiple energy-dispersed ion structures in the plasma sheet boundary layer (PSBL) that showed substructure with several well separated ion beamlets, covering energies from 3 keV up to 100 keV (Keiling et al., 2004a, b). Here we report observations from two PSBL crossings, which show a number of identified one-to-one correlations between this beamlet substructure and several plasma-field characteristics: (a) bimodal ion conics (<1 keV), (b) field-aligned electron flow (<1 keV), (c) perpendicular electric field spikes (~20 mV/m), (d) broadband electrostatic ELF wave packets (<12.5 Hz), and (e) enhanced broadband electromagnetic waves (<4 kHz). The one-to-one correlations strongly suggest that these phenomena were energetically driven by the ion beamlets, also noting that the energy flux of the ion beamlets was 1–2 orders of magnitude larger than, for example, the energy flux of the ion outflow. In addition, several more loosely associated correspondences were observed within the extended region containing the beamlets: (f) electrostatic waves (BEN) (up to 4 kHz), (g) traveling and standing ULF Alfvén waves, (h) field-aligned currents (FAC), and (i) auroral emissions on conjugate magnetic field lines. Possible generation scenarios for these phenomena are discussed. In conclusion, it is argued that the free energy of magnetotail ion beamlets drove a variety of phenomena and that the spatial fine structure of the beamlets dictated the locations of where some of these phenomena occurred. This emphasizes the notion that PSBL ion beams are important for magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. However, it is also shown that the dissipation of electromagnetic energy flux (at altitudes below Cluster) of the simultaneously occurring Alfvén waves and FAC was larger (FAC being the largest) than the dissipation of beam kinetic energy flux, and thus these two energy carriers contributed more to the energy transport on PSBL field lines from the distant magnetotail to the ionosphere than the ion beams.