Articles | Volume 35, issue 3
Regular paper
07 Mar 2017
Regular paper |  | 07 Mar 2017

Ionospheric response to magnetar flare: signature of SGR J1550–5418 on coherent ionospheric Doppler radar

Ayman Mahrous

Abstract. This paper presents observational evidence of frequent ionospheric perturbations caused by the magnetar flare of the source SGR J1550–5418, which took place on 22 January 2009. These ionospheric perturbations are observed in the relative change of the total electron content (ΔTEC/Δt) measurements from the coherent ionospheric Doppler radar (CIDR). The CIDR system makes high-precision measurements of the total electron content (TEC) change along ray-paths from ground receivers to low Earth-orbiting (LEO) beacon spacecraft. These measurements can be integrated along the orbital track of the beacon satellite to construct the relative spatial, not temporal, TEC profiles that are useful for determining the large-scale plasma distribution. The observed spatial TEC changes reveal many interesting features of the magnetar signatures in the ionosphere. The onset phase of the magnetar flare was during the CIDR's nighttime satellite passage. The nighttime small-scale perturbations detected by CIDR, with ΔTEC/Δt  ≥  0.05 TECU s−1, over the eastern Mediterranean on 22 January 2009 were synchronized with the onset phase of the magnetar flare and consistent with the emission of hundreds of bursts detected from the source. The maximum daytime large-scale perturbation measured by CIDR over northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean was detected after ∼ 6 h from the main phase of the magnetar flare, with ΔTEC/Δt  ≤  0.10 TECU s−1. These ionospheric perturbations resembled an unusual poleward traveling ionospheric disturbance (TID) caused by the extraterrestrial source. The TID's estimated virtual velocity is 385.8 m s−1, with ΔTEC/Δt  ≤  0.10 TECU s−1.

Short summary
This is the first time a traveling ionospheric disturbance caused by an extraterrestrial source like a magnetar has been detected. The source entered an active phase on 22 January 2009, during which a large number of bursts were observed by several satellites. We detected its ionospheric signature using the coherent ionospheric Doppler radar system. In general, the Earth's ionosphere is a gigantic detector that responds to the ionizing radiation emitted through high-energy astrophysical objects.