Do magnetospheric shear Alfvén waves generate sufficient electron energy flux to power the aurora?

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Watt, Clare E. J. ; Rankin, R. (2010)
  • Publisher: American Geophysical Union
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1029/2009JA015185
  • Subject:
    arxiv: Physics::Space Physics

Using a self-consistent drift-kinetic simulation code, we investigate whether electron acceleration owing to shear Alfvén waves in the plasma sheet boundary layer is sufficient to cause auroral brightening in the ionosphere. The free parameters used in the simulation code are guided by in situ observations of wave and plasma parameters in the magnetosphere at distances >4 RE from the Earth. For the perpendicular wavelength used in the study, which maps to ∼4 km at 110 km altitude, there is a clear amplitude threshold which determines whether magnetospheric shear Alfvén waves above the classical auroral acceleration region can excite sufficient electrons to create the aurora. Previous studies reported wave amplitudes that easily exceed this threshold; hence, the results reported in this paper demonstrate that auroral acceleration owing to shear Alfvén waves can occur in the magnetosphere at distances >4 RE from the Earth.
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