Auroral Beads in Conjunction With Kinetic Alfvén Waves in the Equatorial Inner-Magnetosphere

Sheng Tian, L. R. Lyons, Y. Nishimura, J. R. Wygant, Robert L Lysak, C. P. Ferradas, X. An, A. B. Igl, G. D. Reeves, B. A. Larsen, D. Ma

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3 Scopus citations


Auroral beads are spatially wavy forms routinely seen before the onset of auroral substorms and are closely related to the onset-related instabilities. To date, the acceleration mechanism of electrons that create auroral beads is not fully determined. Here, we present a fortuitous event when the Van Allen Probe A (RBSP-A) was in magnetic conjunction with auroral beads. RBSP-A observed Alfvén waves, locally generated kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) and Alfvénic accelerated electrons at several 100 eV. The Alfvén waves and KAWs carried sufficient Poynting flux to power visible aurora and may control the beads' motion. These observations and previous simulations support that the Alfvénic acceleration is the acceleration mechanism of the auroral beads. Specifically, KAWs are generated around the equator and accelerate local cold electrons to several 100 eV. The waves are suggested to propagate to both hemispheres and accelerate electrons to several keV, which directly account for the auroral beads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GL098457
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 16 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the following funding sources, including the NSF Grant 2108582, NASA grants 80NSSC19K0306, 80NSSC20K1314, 80NSSC20K1269, and NASA prime contract NAS5‐01072.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Authors.


  • Landau resonance
  • Poynting flux
  • auroral beads
  • instability
  • kinetic Alfven wave
  • magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling


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