Articles | Volume 33, issue 10
Ann. Geophys., 33, 1285–1300, 2015

Special issue: Dynamic processes in geospace

Ann. Geophys., 33, 1285–1300, 2015

Regular paper 22 Oct 2015

Regular paper | 22 Oct 2015

Wide-banded NTC radiation: local to remote observations by the four Cluster satellites

P. M. E. Décréau1, S. Aoutou1, A. Denazelle1, I. Galkina1, J.-L. Rauch1, X. Vallières1, P. Canu2, S. Rochel Grimald3, F. El-Lemdani Mazouza, and F. Darrouzet4 P. M. E. Décréau et al.
  • 1Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l'Environnement et de l'Espace (LPC2E), Orléans, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas (LPP), Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
  • 3Office National d'Études et de REcherches Aérospatiales (ONERA), The French Aerospace Laboratory, Toulouse, France
  • 4Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (IASB-BIRA), Brussels, Belgium
  • aformerly at: Laboratoire ATmosphère, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS), Guyancourt, France

Abstract. The Cluster multi-point mission offers a unique collection of non-thermal continuum (NTC) radio waves observed in the 2–80 kHz frequency range over almost 15 years, from various view points over the radiating plasmasphere. Here we present rather infrequent case events, such as when primary electrostatic sources of such waves are embedded within the plasmapause boundary far from the magnetic equatorial plane. The spectral signature of the emitted electromagnetic waves is structured as a series of wide harmonic bands within the range covered by the step in plasma frequency encountered at the boundary. Developing the concept that the frequency distance df between harmonic bands measures the magnetic field magnitude B at the source (df = Fce, electron gyrofrequency), we analyse three selected events. The first one (studied in Grimald et al., 2008) presents electric field signatures observed by a Cluster constellation of small size (~ 200 to 1000 km spacecraft separation) placed in the vicinity of sources. The electric field frequency spectra display frequency peaks placed at frequencies fs = n df (n being an integer), with df of the order of Fce values encountered at the plasmapause by the spacecraft. The second event, taken from the Cluster tilt campaign, leads to a 3-D view of NTC waves ray path orientations and to a localization of a global source region at several Earth radii (RE) from Cluster (Décréau et al., 2013). The measured spectra present successive peaks placed at fs ~ (n+ 1/2) df. Next, considering if both situations might be two facets of the same phenomenon, we analyze a third event. The Cluster fleet, configured into a constellation of large size (~ 8000 to 25 000 km spacecraft separation), allows us to observe wide-banded NTC waves at different distances from their sources. Two new findings can be derived from our analysis. First, we point out that a large portion of the plasmasphere boundary layer, covering a large range of magnetic latitudes, is radiating radio waves. The radio waves are issued from multiple sources of small size, each related to a given fs series and radiating inside a beam of narrow cone angle, referred to as a beamlet. The beamlets illuminate different satellites simultaneously, at different characteristic fs values, according to the latitude at which the satellite is placed. Second, when an observing satellite moves away from its assumed source region (the plasmapause surface), it is illuminated by several beamlets, issued from nearby sources with characteristic fs values close to each other. The addition of radio waves blurs the spectra of the overall received electric field. It can move the signal peaks such that their position fs satisfiesfs = (n+α) df, with 0 < α < 1. These findings open new perspectives for the interpretation of NTC events displaying harmonic signatures.

Short summary
We present here cases of wide banded Non Thermal Continuum (NTC) observed from the multi-point Cluster observatory. We point out that a large portion of the plasmasphere boundary layer, covering magnetic latitudes from 0 to above 30°, is radiating these radio waves. The radiation is confined inside multiple beams of small cone angles. We show how the spectral signature evolves, from integer harmonics of the electron gyrofrequency, when the observatory moves away from their sources.