Ion sources and acceleration mechanisms inferred from local distribution functions

M. Ashour-Abdalla, M. El-Alaoui, V. Peroomian, J. Raeder, R. J. Walker, R. L. Richard, L. M. Zelenyi, L. A. Frank, W. R. Paterson, J. M. Bosqued, R. P. Lepping, K. Ogilvie, S. Kokubun, and T. Yamamoto

Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California


This study investigates the sources of the ions making up the complex and nonistropic H+ velocity distribution functions observed by the Geotail spacecraft on May 23, 1995, in the near-Earth magnetotail region and recently reported by Frank, [1996]. A distribution function observed by Geotail at ~10 RE downtail is used as input for the large scale kinetic (LSK) technique to follow the trajectories of approximately 90,000 H+ ions backward in time. Time-dependent magnetic and electric fields are taken from a global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation of the magnetosphere and its interactions with appropriate solar wind and IMF conditions. The ion population described by the Geotail distribution function was found to consist of a mixture of particles originating from three distinct sources: the ionosphere, the low latitude boundary layer (LLBL), and the high latitude plasma mantle. Ionospheric particles had direct access along field lines to Geotail, and LLBL ions convected adiabatically to the Geotail location. Plasma mantle ions, on the other hand, exhibited two distinct types of behavior. Most near-Earth mantle ions reached Geotail on adiabatic orbits, while distant mantle ions interacted with the current sheet tailward of Geotail and had mostly nonadiabatic orbits. Ions from the ionosphere, the LLBL, and the near-Earth mantle were directly responsible for the well-separated, low energy structures easily discernible in the observed and modeled distribution functions. Distant mantle ions formed the higher energy portion of the Geotail distribution. Thus, we have been successful in extracting useful information about particle sources, their relative contribution to the measured distribution and the acceleration processes that affected particle transport during this time.

Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 955-958, 1997