Cluster investigations of the extent and altitude distribution of the auroral density cavity

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Sammanfattning: The auroral density cavity constitutes the boundary between the cold, dense ionospheric plasma and the hot, tenuous plasma sheet plasma. The auroral density cavity is characterized by low electron density and particle populations modified by parallel electric fields. Inside the cavity the electron densities can be as much as a factor 100-1000 lower than same altitude outside the cavity.The Cluster mission's wide range of instruments, long lifetime and ability to make multi-spacecraft observations has been very successful. Over its 15 year lifespan, the Cluster satellites have gathered data on auroral density cavities over a large altitude range and throughout an entire solar cycle, providing a vast data material.The extent of the density cavity and acceleration region is large compared to the typical altitude coverage of a satellite crossing the cavity. This makes it difficult to produce a comprehensive altitude/density profile from a single crossing. In order to facilitate comparisons between data from different events, we introduce a new reference frame, pseudo altitude. Pseudo altitude describes the satellites' position relative to the acceleration region, as opposed to relative to the Earth. This pseudo altitude is constructed by dividing the parallel potential drop below the satellite with the total parallel potential drop. A pseudo altitude of 0 corresponds to the bottom of the acceleration region and a pseudo altitude of 1 to the top of the acceleration region. As expected, the pseudo altitude increases with altitude. The electron density exhibits an anti-correlation with the pseudo altitude, the density becomes lower close to the upper edge of the acceleration region. The upper edge of the acceleration region is located between a geocentric altitude of 4.375 and 5.625 RE. Above the upper edge of the acceleration region, the electron density continues to decrease for the entire range of the study, 3.0-6.5 RE. This is much further than the geocentric altitude range of 2-3 RE which is suggested by previous models. We can conclude that the auroral density cavity is not confined by the auroral acceleration region, as suggested by previous models, and may extend all the way to the plasma sheet.