Observations of precipitation energies during different types of pulsating aurora
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAnnales Geophysicae. 2020, 38, 1191–1202 10.5194/angeo-38-1191-2020
Pulsating aurora (PsA) is a diffuse type of aurora with different structures switching on and off with a period of a few seconds. It is often associated with energetic electron precipitation (>10 keV) resulting in the interaction between magnetospheric electrons and electromagnetic waves in the magnetosphere. Recent studies categorize pulsating aurora into three different types – amorphous pulsating aurora (APA), patchy pulsating aurora (PPA), and patchy aurora (PA) – based on the spatial extent of pulsations and structural stability. Differences in precipitation energies of electrons associated with these types of pulsating aurora have been suggested. In this study, we further examine these three types of pulsating aurora using electron density measurements from the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) VHF/UHF radar experiments and Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array (KAIRA) cosmic noise absorption (CNA) measurements. Based on ground-based all-sky camera images over the Fennoscandian region, we identified a total of 92 PsA events in the years between 2010 and 2020 with simultaneous EISCAT experiments. Among these events, 39, 35, and 18 were APA, PPA, and PA types with a collective duration of 58, 43, and 21 h, respectively. We found that, below 100 km, electron density enhancements during PPAs and PAs are significantly higher than during APA. However, there are no appreciable electron density differences between PPA and APA above 100 km, while PA showed weaker ionization. The altitude of the maximum electron density also showed considerable differences among the three types, centered around 110, 105, and 105 km for APA, PPA, and PA, respectively. The KAIRA CNA values also showed higher values on average during PPA (0.33 dB) compared to PA (0.23 dB) and especially APA (0.17 dB). In general, this suggests that the precipitating electrons responsible for APA have a lower energy range compared to PPA and PA types. Among the three categories, the magnitude of the maximum electron density shows higher values at lower altitudes and in the late magnetic local time (MLT) sector (after 5 MLT) during PPA than during PA or APA. We also found significant ionization down to 70 km during PPA and PA, which corresponds to ∼200 keV of precipitating electrons.