Auroral Zone Ion Composition

  1. T. E. Moore,
  2. J. H. Waite Jr.,
  3. T. W. Moorehead and
  4. W. B. Hanson
  1. W. K. Peterson

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM044p0145

Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma

Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma

How to Cite

Peterson, W. K. (1988) Auroral Zone Ion Composition, in Modeling Magnetospheric Plasma (eds T. E. Moore, J. H. Waite, T. W. Moorehead and W. B. Hanson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM044p0145

Author Information

  1. Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory, Palo Alto, California 94304

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1988

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900704

Online ISBN: 9781118664414



  • Space plasmas—Mathematical models;
  • Magnetosphere—Mathematical models;
  • Ionosphere—Mathematical models


Ion composition measurements provide valuable information about the sources, energization, transport, and loss mechanisms of space plasmas. In the past 10 years the initial series of plasma composition measurements from the S3-3, GEOS, ISEE, SCATHA, PROGNOZ, AUREOL-3, DE, and AMPTE satellites have provided insights which have significantly improved our understanding and models of the magnetosphere and ionosphere. In particular, we now know that the auroral and polar ionosphere are important sources of the magnetospheric plasma. We have learned that the ionospheric source of magnetospheric plasma varies systematically in its mass and energy composition with respect to local time, season of the year, and the solar cycle, as well as with respect to magnetic activity. There is also some evidence that variations in the ionospheric source composition can lead to the initiation of plasma sheet instabilities. Today we realize that auroral field lines are the sites of many different types of acceleration and energization processes, some of which are known to be mass dependent. Detailed measurements of ion distribution functions have been useful in exploring the importance of various ion energization and thermalization processes. Some recent observational results obtained from satellite-borne ion mass spectrometers that are relevant to magnetosphere/ionosphere plasma models will be discussed.