Spatial and temporal aspects of high-latitude particle precipitation: a remote diagnostic of magnetospheric regions and processes
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Due to the direct magnetic connection of the high-latitude ionosphere to the outer magnetosphere, a great deal of knowledge of the physics and properties of magnetospheric regions and the fundamental plasma processes operating within them can be learned from studying low-altitude particle measurements. In this thesis the temporal and spatial aspects of the low-altitude auroral particle precipitation are investigated using a unique set of particle flux observations from two Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft in the same orbit but with varying time separation. Three different topics are investigated in this study: auroral stability, the accuracy of the Newell-Meng criteria for region identification, and the relative importance of various magnetopause reconnection models. In the first part the prevalent timescales and spatial dimensions of low-altitude auroral formations are examined using both electron and ion data. It is found that spatial scales larger than 50-100 km are stable for up to 1.5 minutes, while smaller size features vary more rapidly. In the second topic we explore quantitative and qualitative aspects of the Newell-Meng criteria. The flexibility and limitations of the numerical values used are examined with case and statistical studies; all but one are found to be sufficiently robust. Additionally, an expansion of the criteria to include a distinction between open and closed magnetic field line geometries is considered. The last part concentrates on the evaluation of currently proposed models of magnetopause reconnection, based on a case study of ion and electron low-altitude particle reconnection signatures. We conclude that a unique combination of the multiple x-line and bursty single x-line reconnection models is required for a full interpretation of the data. This scenario also provides a comprehensive mechanism for the formation of the low-latitude boundary layer on both open and closed field lines. Finally, the common conclusion of all three studies is that two-point measurements add considerably to our understanding of the low-altitude auroral environment and thereby, the remote processes governing its dynamics.
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