Articles | Volume 31, issue 2
Regular paper
22 Feb 2013
Regular paper |  | 22 Feb 2013

Characterising electron butterfly pitch angle distributions in the magnetosphere through observations and simulations

M. M. Klida and T. A. Fritz

Abstract. The Imaging Electron Spectrometer (IES) on the Polar satellite has measured the average characteristics of the equatorial electron pitch angle distributions (PADs) in the midnight sector as a function of radial distance out to the 9 RE apogee of the Polar satellite. Depressions in the observed fluxes of electrons occur with pitch angles around 90° in the equatorial zone, while the more field-aligned electrons remain largely unchanged. The orbital precessions of the satellite have allowed much of the inner equatorial magnetosphere to be observed. Statistically, butterfly PADs with different shapes are observed selectively in different regions, which can provide insight to their source and possible history. Electron paths of varied pitch angles were modelled using Runge-Kutta approximations of the Lorentz force in a Tsyganenko (T96) simulated magnetosphere. The resulting drift paths suggest that the process of magnetopause shadowing plays a significant role in the loss of these electrons. Case studies of the drifting patterns of electrons with varied pitch angles were simulated from Polar's orbit when a butterfly PAD was observed on 3 October 2002 at an altitude near 9 RE and on 12 September 2000 at an altitude near 6 RE. These two locations represent regions on each side of the boundary of stable trapping. The modelling effort strongly suggests that magnetopause shadowing does play a significant role in the loss of equatorially drifting electrons from the outer regions of the inner magnetosphere.