Articles | Volume 26, issue 11
21 Oct 2008
 | 21 Oct 2008

A study of fine structure of diffuse aurora with ALIS-FAST measurements

T. Sergienko, I. Sandahl, B. Gustavsson, L. Andersson, U. Brändström, and Å. Steen

Abstract. We present results of an investigation of the fine structure of the night sector diffuse auroral zone, observed simultaneously with optical instruments (ALIS) from the ground and the FAST electron spectrometer from space 16 February 1997. Both the optical and particle data show that the diffuse auroral zone consisted of two regions. The equatorward part of the diffuse aurora was occupied by a pattern of regular, parallel auroral stripes. The auroral stripes were significantly brighter than the background luminosity, had widths of approximately 5 km and moved southward with a velocity of about 100 m/s. The second region, located between the region with auroral stripes and the discrete auroral arcs to the north, was filled with weak and almost homogeneous luminosity, against which short-lived auroral rays and small patches appeared chaotically. From analysis of the electron differential fluxes corresponding to the different regions of the diffuse aurora and based on existing theories of the scattering process we conclude the following: Strong pitch angle diffusion by electron cyclotron harmonic waves (ECH) of plasma sheet electrons in the energy range from a few hundred eV to 3–4 keV was responsible for the electron precipitation, that produced the background luminosity within the whole diffuse zone. The fine structure, represented by the auroral stripes, was created by precipitation of electrons above 3–4 keV as a result of pitch angle diffusion into the loss cone by whistler mode waves. A so called "internal gravity wave" (Safargaleev and Maltsev, 1986) may explain the formation of the regular spatial pattern formed by the auroral stripes in the equatorward part of the diffuse auroral zone.