Spatial structure and gradients of ion beams observed by FAST

J. P. McFadden, C. W. Carlson, R. E. Ergun, F. S. Mozer, M. Temerin, W. Peria, D. M. Klumpar, E. G. Shelley, W. K. Peterson, E. Moebius, L. Kistler, R. Elphic, R. Strangeway, C. Cattell, R. Pfaff

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High time resolution measurements of ion distributions by the FAST satellite have revealed kilometer scale spatial structure in the low altitude auroral acceleration region. The low altitude edge of the acceleration region appears to contain fingers of potential that extend hundreds of kilometers along B but are only a few to tens of kilometers wide. These fingers of potential do not appear to be strongly correlated with the local current or total potential drop. Gradients in the ion beam energy are found to be consistent with the electric field signatures expected in the quasi-static potential drop model of auroral acceleration. Typical ion beams show gradients of 0.5-1.0 keV/km, with some events as large a 3 keV/km. Integrations of the electric field along the space-craft velocity are used to calculate parallel potential below FAST and are found to agree well with the ion beam energy for most events. One event is shown where an apparent temporal change in the auroral configuration occurs at the edge of the ion beam producing a disagreement between the beam energy and inferred potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2021-2024
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1998


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