Articles | Volume 26, issue 8
31 Jul 2008
 | 31 Jul 2008

Enhanced ion acoustic lines due to strong ion cyclotron wave fields

H. Bahcivan and R. Cosgrove

Abstract. The Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) satellite detected intense and coherent 5–20 m electric field structures in the high-latitude topside auroral ionosphere between the altitudes of 350 km and 650 km. These electric fields appear to belong to electrostatic ion cyclotron (EIC) waves in terms of their frequency and wavelengths. Numerical simulations of the response of an electron plasma to the parallel components of these fields show that the waves are likely to excite a wave-driven parallel ion acoustic (IA) instability, through the creation of a highly non-Maxwellian electron distribution function, which when combined with the (assumed) Maxwellian ion distribution function provides inverse Landau damping. Because the counter-streaming threshold for excitation of EIC waves is well below that for excitation of IA waves (assuming Maxwellian statistics) our results suggest a possible two step mechanism for destabilization of IA waves. Combining this simulation result with the observational fact that these EIC waves share a common phenomenology with the naturally enhanced IA lines (NEIALS) observed by incoherent scatter radars, especially that they both occur near field-aligned currents, leads to the proposition that this two-step mechanism is an alternative path to NEIALS.