Low-Energy (<keV) O + Ion Outflow Directly Into the Inner Magnetosphere: Van Allen Probes Observations

Matina Gkioulidou, S. Ohtani, A. Y. Ukhorskiy, D. G. Mitchell, K. Takahashi, H. E. Spence, J. R. Wygant, C. A. Kletzing, R. J. Barnes

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The heavy ion component of the low-energy (eV to hundreds of eV) ion population in the inner magnetosphere, also known as the O + torus, is a crucial population for various aspects of magnetospheric dynamics. Yet even though its existence has been known since the 1980s, its formation remains an open question. We present a comprehensive study of a low-energy (<keV), bidirectional O + outflow event, which occurred deep into the inner magnetosphere (inside L = 4), and was observed by the Helium, Oxygen, Proton and Electron (HOPE) instrument aboard the Van Allen Probe B. The observed spectrogram exhibited multiple bands of field-aligned intensity enhancements with energy dispersion. A 2-D guiding-center test-particle tracing simulation demonstrates that the observed spectral features can be attributed to O + ions exiting both hemispheres of the nightside ionosphere over L ~ 3–4 latitudinal and magnetic local time (MLT) ~ 21 to 23 hr longitudinal extent, directly entering the inner magnetosphere, and subsequently bouncing from one hemisphere to the other. The outflow is associated with earthward field-aligned Poynting flux enhancement and field-aligned electron beams, as observed at the Van Allen Probes location, as well as with strong upward field-aligned current, as revealed by the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) at the ionospheric footpoint of the spacecraft. O + partial density in the region outside plasmapause was significantly enhanced by the outflow population, exceeding the H + density and indicating the possible formation of an O + torus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-419
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • O outflow
  • inner magnetosphere

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    Gkioulidou, M., Ohtani, S., Ukhorskiy, A. Y., Mitchell, D. G., Takahashi, K., Spence, H. E., Wygant, J. R., Kletzing, C. A., & Barnes, R. J. (2019). Low-Energy (<keV) O + Ion Outflow Directly Into the Inner Magnetosphere: Van Allen Probes Observations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 124(1), 405-419. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JA025862