Articles | Volume 33, issue 12
Regular paper
 | Highlight paper
09 Dec 2015
Regular paper | Highlight paper |  | 09 Dec 2015

Magnetospheric conditions near the equatorial footpoints of proton isotropy boundaries

V. A. Sergeev, I. A. Chernyaev, V. Angelopoulos, and N. Y. Ganushkina

Abstract. Data from a cluster of three THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) spacecraft during February–March 2009 frequently provide an opportunity to construct local data-adaptive magnetospheric models, which are suitable for the accurate mapping along the magnetic field lines at distances of 6–9 Re in the nightside magnetosphere. This allows us to map the isotropy boundaries (IBs) of 30 and 80 keV protons observed by low-altitude NOAA POES (Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites) to the equatorial magnetosphere (to find the projected isotropy boundary, PIB) and study the magnetospheric conditions, particularly to evaluate the ratio KIB (Rc/rc; the magnetic field curvature radius to the particle gyroradius) in the neutral sheet at that point. Special care is taken to control the factors which influence the accuracy of the adaptive models and mapping. Data indicate that better accuracy of an adaptive model is achieved when the PIB distance from the closest spacecraft is as small as 1–2 Re. For this group of most accurate predictions, the spread of KIB values is still large (from 4 to 32), with the median value KIB ~13 being larger than the critical value Kcr ~ 8 expected at the inner boundary of nonadiabatic angular scattering in the current sheet. It appears that two different mechanisms may contribute to form the isotropy boundary. The group with K ~ [4,12] is most likely formed by current sheet scattering, whereas the group having KIB ~ [12,32] could be formed by the resonant scattering of low-energy protons by the electromagnetic ion-cyclotron (EMIC) waves. The energy dependence of the upper K limit and close proximity of the latter event to the plasmapause locations support this conclusion. We also discuss other reasons why the K ~ 8 criterion for isotropization may fail to work, as well as a possible relationship between the two scattering mechanisms.

Short summary
Adaptive magnetospheric models based on THEMIS magnetic observations made at 6-9Re in the nightside magnetosphere are used to map the magnetically conjugate 30 and 80keV proton isotropy boundaries (IBs) to investigate the value of Kib=Rc/rc (magnetic curvature radius to particle gyroradius) in the neutral sheet at the IB generation place. For the most accurate mapping, the group Kib spread spans from 4 to 32; its median value is ~13, slightly larger than Kib8 expected for current sheet scatter.