Articles | Volume 33, issue 8
Regular paper
31 Aug 2015
Regular paper |  | 31 Aug 2015

Energy–latitude dispersion patterns near the isotropy boundaries of energetic protons

V. A. Sergeev, S. A. Chernyaeva, S. V. Apatenkov, N. Y. Ganushkina, and S. V. Dubyagin

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.

Short summary
We investigate the precipitated-to-trapped flux ratio patterns near the proton isotropy boundary (IB) using NOAA-POES observations. For 30 and 80keV proton energies, we found only 31% of events showing the dispersion pattern predicted by the non-adiabatic scattering in the tail current sheet. Most frequent pattern had no measureable IB energy dispersion (63%); structured IBs with a few Jprec/Jtrap dropouts were also usual (60%). Roles of current sheet and wave-induced scattering are discussed.