Decay of polar cap patch



[1] We report an event in which a polar cap patch was detected with an all-sky imager (ASI) at Resolute Bay, Canada (74.73° N, 265.07° E; AACGM latitude 82.9°), on the nightside. The patch stopped its antisunward motion associated with a northward turning of interplanetary magnetic field and stayed within the field of view of the ASI for more than 1 h. When the patch stagnated, its luminosity decreased gradually, which allows us to investigate how the patch plasma decayed in a quantitative manner. The decay of the patch can be quantitatively explained by the loss through recombinations of O+ with ambient N2 and O2 molecules, if we assume the altitude of the optical patch to be around 295 km. The derived altitude of the patch around 295 km is much higher than the nominal value at 235 km obtained from the MSIS-E90 and IRI-2007 models, indicating that climatological models such as IRI are not suitable for describing the actual density profile of patches. This is probably because the loss process was much faster in the lower-altitude part of the patch; thus, the peak altitude of the patch increased as it traveled across the polar cap because of rapid recombination at the bottomside of the F region. This suggests that we should employ higher emission altitude when we investigate optical patches transported deep into the nightside polar cap. Such information is important when we compare the optical data with other instruments such as coherent radars and GPS scintillation measurements by mapping the all-sky image on the geographic coordinate system with an assumption of the patch emission altitude.