FAST observations of discrete electrostatic waves in association with down-going ion beams in the auroral zone

C. Cattell, L. Johnson, R. Bergmann, D. Klumpar, C. Carlson, J. McFadden, R. Strangeway, R. Ergun, K. Sigsbee, R. Pfaff

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Ion beams flowing downward, into the ionosphere, along the Earth's magnetic field have frequently been observed by the FAST satellite in the auroral zone. These discrete downward moving ion beams (DFI) have been characterized by Klumpar et al. [1999] who interpreted the horseshoe-shaped distributions as being consistent with acceleration in a parallel potential drop above the satellite, followed by motion into a region of increased magnetic field strength. The down-flowing ion beams are associated with an intense narrowband electrostatic emission at the lower hybrid frequency, polarized perpendicular to the geomagnetic field. Hydrogen cyclotron harmonics both above and below the lower hybrid frequency are also very common. These are the first observations of down-flowing ions and associated waves outside of the cusp, and the physical mechanism producing the ions is very different from the one associated with cusp ion injections. The DFI events that had a monotonie increase in energy were associated with a clear field-aligned current signature. The DFI densities were usually ∼5-10/cc, whereas the background plasma had densities up to 100/cc. The wave and DFI observations are consistent with linear dispersion relation calculations and simulations with ion ring distributions that show that the instability is due to coupling of the ion Bernstein waves to the lower hybrid wave. In addition, for a few events, electrostatic ion cyclotron waves were observed. Such waves are usually associated with up-going ion beams and have not previously been seen with DFI, which have a very different shape in the distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1238
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue numberA9
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Aurora
  • Downward field-aligned current
  • Ion beams
  • Lower hybrid waves

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