Plasmapause signatures in the ionosphere and magnetosphere


  • J. C. Foster,

  • C. G. Park,

  • L. H. Brace,

  • J. R. Burrows,

  • J. H. Hoffman,

  • E. J. Maier,

  • J. H. Whitteker


Isis 2 observations of a variety of topside ionospheric ‘signatures’ of the plasmapause are compared with simultaneously acquired equatorial electron density profiles obtained by the whistler technique. The satellite data were acquired at ∼1400-km altitude at dusk and dawn in the sunlit northern hemisphere summer ionosphere within ∼15° longitude of the VLF receiver. Results suggest that the dynamics of plasma coupling between the ionosphere and plasmasphere dominate the topside data and obscure the location of the equatorial plasmapause field line. The total density and light ion troughs begin 2°–10° equatorward of the field line through the equatorial plasmapause and are not clear plasmapause signatures. The invariant latitude of the region of steep spatial gradient in thermal plasma density, i.e., the plasmapause, appears to increase with altitude. Thus measurements of its position at different altitudes may give different results. Plasma sheet electrons, however, are observed on field lines just outside the equatorial plasmapause at both dawn and dusk. Their low-latitude extent at 1400-km altitude can be used as a signature of the equatorial plasmapause position.