Articles | Volume 33, issue 10
Regular paper
15 Oct 2015
Regular paper |  | 15 Oct 2015

Relating field-aligned beams to inverted-V structures and visible auroras

E. Lee, G. K. Parks, S. Y. Fu, M. Fillingim, Y. B. Cui, J. Hong, I. Dandouras, and H. Rème

Abstract. The ion composition experiment on Cluster measures 3-D distributions in one spin of the spacecraft (4 s). These distributions often measure field-aligned ion beams (H+, He+ and O+) accelerated out of the ionosphere. The standard model of these beams relies on a quasi-static U-shaped potential model. The beams contain important information about the structure and distribution of the U-shaped potential structures. For example, a simple beam with a narrow velocity range tells us that the particles are accelerated going through a quasi-static U-shaped potential structure localized in space. A more complex beam with a large range of velocities varying smoothly (a few tens of kilometers per second to > 100 km s−1) tells us that the potential structure is extended and distributed along the magnetic field. The Cluster experiment has now revealed new features about the beams. Some beams are broken into many individual structures each with their own velocity. The U-shaped potential model would interpret the new features in terms of particles accelerated by narrow isolated potential structures maintained over an extended region of the magnetic field. Another interpretation is that these features arise as Cluster traverses toward the center of a small-scale U-shaped potential region detecting particles accelerated on different equipotential contours. The estimate of the distance of the adjacent contours is ~ 590–610 m at a Cluster height of ~ 3.5 RE. The observed dimensions map to ~ 295–305 m in the ionosphere, suggesting Cluster has measured the potential structure of an auroral arc.