Chorus whistler wave source scales as determined from multipoint Van Allen Probe measurements

O. Agapitov, L. W. Blum, F. S. Mozer, J. W. Bonnell, J. Wygant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Whistler mode chorus waves are particularly important in outer radiation belt dynamics due to their key role in controlling the acceleration and scattering of electrons over a very wide energy range. The key parameters for both nonlinear and quasi-linear treatment of wave-particle interactions are the temporal and spatial scales of the wave source region and coherence of the wave field perturbations. Neither the source scale nor the coherence scale is well established experimentally, mostly because of a lack of multipoint VLF waveform measurements. We present an unprecedentedly long interval of coordinated VLF waveform measurements (sampled at 16384 s−1) aboard the two Van Allen Probes spacecraft—9 h (0800–1200 UT and 1700–2200 UT) during two consecutive apogees on 15 July 2014. The spacecraft separations varied from about 100 to 5000 km (mostly radially); measurements covered an L shell range from 3 to 6; magnetic local time 0430–0900, and magnetic latitudes were ~15 and ~5° during the two orbits. Using time-domain correlation techniques, the single chorus source spatial extent transverse to the background magnetic field has been determined to be about 550–650 km for upper band chorus waves with amplitudes less than 100 pT and up to 800 km for larger amplitude, lower band chorus waves. The ratio between wave amplitudes measured on the two spacecraft is also examined to reveal that the wave amplitude distribution within a single chorus element generation area can be well approximated by a Gaussian exp(−0.5 · r2/r0 2), with the characteristic scale r0 around 300 km. Waves detected by the two spacecraft were found to be coherent in phase at distances up to 400 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2634-2642
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 28 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the JHU/APL contract 922613 (RBSP-EFW), NASA grant NNX16AF85G, and NSF Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) Postdoctoral Fellowship. The authors thank Ondrej Santolik for useful conversations. Van Allen Probe EMFISIS data can be found at and EFW data at The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • VLF waves
  • chorus spatial scales


Dive into the research topics of 'Chorus whistler wave source scales as determined from multipoint Van Allen Probe measurements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this