Energy–latitude dispersion patterns near the isotropy boundaries of energetic protons
Abstract. Non-adiabatic motion of plasma sheet protons causes pitch-angle scattering and isotropic precipitation to the ionosphere, which forms the proton auroral oval. This mechanism related to current sheet scattering (CSS) provides a specific energy–latitude dispersion pattern near the equatorward boundary of proton isotropic precipitation (isotropy boundary, IB), with precipitation sharply decreasing at higher (lower) latitude for protons with lower (higher) energy. However, this boundary maps to the inner magnetosphere, where wave-induced scattering may provide different dispersion patterns as recently demonstrated by Liang et al. (2014). Motivated by the potential usage of the IBs for the magnetotail monitoring as well as by the need to better understand the mechanisms forming the proton IB, we investigate statistically the details of particle flux patterns near the proton IB using NOAA-POES polar spacecraft observations made during September 2009. By comparing precipitated-to-trapped flux ratio (J0/J90) at >30 and >80 keV proton energies, we found a relatively small number of simple CSS-type dispersion events (only 31 %). The clear reversed (wave-induced) dispersion patterns were very rare (5 %). The most frequent pattern had nearly coinciding IBs at two energies (63 %). The structured precipitation with multiple IBs was very frequent (60 %), that is, with two or more significant J0/J90 dropouts. The average latitudinal width of multiple IB structures was about 1°. Investigation of dozens of paired auroral zone crossings of POES satellites showed that the IB pattern is stable on a timescale of less than 2 min (a few proton bounce periods) but can evolve on a longer (several minutes) scale, suggesting temporal changes in some mesoscale structures in the equatorial magnetosphere.
We discuss the possible role of CSS-related and wave-induced mechanisms and their possible coupling to interpret the emerging complicated patterns of proton isotropy boundaries.