Articles | Volume 28, issue 2
09 Feb 2010
 | 09 Feb 2010

Bi-layer structure of counterstreaming energetic electron fluxes: a diagnostic tool of the acceleration mechanism in the Earth's magnetotail

D. V. Sarafopoulos

Abstract. For the first time we identify a bi-layer structure of energetic electron fluxes in the Earth's magnetotail and establish (using datasets mainly obtained by the Geotail Energetic Particles and Ion Composition (EPIC/ICS) instrument) that it actually provides strong evidence for a purely spatial structure. Each bi-layer event is composed of two distinct layers with counterstreaming energetic electron fluxes, parallel and antiparallel to the local ambient magnetic field lines; in particular, the tailward directed fluxes always occur in a region adjacent to the lobes. Adopting the X-line as a standard reconnection model, we determine the occurrence of bi-layer events relatively to the neutral point, in the substorm frame; four (out of the shown seven) events are observed earthward and three tailward, a result implying that four events probably occurred with the substorm's local recovery phase. We discuss the bi-layer events in terms of the X-line model; they add more constraints for any candidate electron acceleration mechanism. It should be stressed that until this time, none proposed electron acceleration mechanism has discussed or predicted these layered structures with all their properties. Then we discuss the bi-layer events in terms of the much promising "akis model", as introduced by Sarafopoulos (2008). The akis magnetic field topology is embedded in a thinned plasma sheet and is potentially causing charge separation. We assume that as the Rc curvature radius of the magnetic field line tends to become equal to the ion gyroradius rg, then the ions become non-adiabatic. At the limit Rc=rg the demagnetization process is also under way and the frozen-in magnetic field condition is violated by strong wave turbulence; hence, the ion particles in this geometry are stochastically scattered. In addition, ion diffusion probably takes place across the magnetic field, since an intense pressure gradient is directed earthward; hence, ions are ejected tailward of akis. This way, in front of akis an "ion capsule region" is formed with net positive charge. In between them a distinct region with an electric field E orthogonal to the magnetic field is emerged; E in front of akis is directed earthward. The field-aligned and highly anisotropic energetic electron populations have probably resulted via spatially separated antiparallel and field-aligned electric fields being the very heart of the acceleration source. We assume that the ultimate cause for the field-aligned electric fields are the net positive capsule charge and the net negative charge trapped at the tip of akis; both charges will be eventually neutralized through field aligned currents, but they remain unshielded for sufficient time to produce the observed events.