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Propagating substorm injection fronts


  • T. E. Moore,

  • R. L. Arnoldy,

  • J. Feynman,

  • D. A. Hardy


The geosynchronous ATS 6 environmental measurements experiment was operated during 15 evening passes when the SCATHA spacecraft was within 1–2 RE and both spacecraft were very near the geomagnetic equator. Numerous, well-defined substorm injections were recorded at both spacecraft with varying local time and radial separations. Accurate delay timing was possible since these events exhibit abrupt and essentially dispersionless (to within 10 s) plasma flux changes which replace cool preexisting plasma with hot quasi-Maxwellian distributions. The hot plasma propagates earthward in close association with an equally abrupt magnetic field increase at velocities in the range of 10–100 km/s. On this basis we identify the agent of injection as the induced electric field of the earthward propagating compression wave observed by Russell and McPherron (1973), and we refer to the propagating particle structure as the injection front. These dramatic synchronous orbit electron injection signatures are produced mainly by a boundary motion rather than by local acceleration of plasma. However, we find some evidence that the plasma sheet electrons are weakly ‘heated’ by the passage of each compression wave, the energy appearing mainly in the high-energy tail of the distribution. The spectral change we observe argues convincingly that the boundary in question is a precipitation-flow boundary layer (Kennel, 1969) and that the near-earth plasma sheet is significantly degraded in average energy by the addition of ionospheric plasma, especially secondary electrons emitted by the ionosphere due to precipitating energetic electrons. The presence of significant ∂B/∂t requires that a change of mapping occur between the equatorial plane and the ionosphere, the sense being such as to map the inward moving injection front to a relatively fixed latitude in the ionosphere. Such an earthward plasma injection would not therefore require equatorward auroral motion.

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