FAST satellite observations of electric field structures in the auroral zone

R. E. Ergun, C. W. Carlson, J. P. McFadden, F. S. Mozer, G. T. Delory, W. Peria, C. C. Chaston, M. Temerin, R. Elphic, R. Strangeway, R. Pfaff, C. A. Cattell, D. Klumpar, E. Shelley, W. Peterson, E. Moebius, L. Kistler

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234 Scopus citations


Electric field and energetic particle observations by the Fast Auroral Snapshot (FAST) satellite provide convincing evidence of particle acceleration by quasi-static, magnetic-field-aligned (parallel) electric fields in both the upward and downward current regions of the auroral zone. We demonstrate this by comparing the inferred parallel potentials of electrostatic shocks with particle energies. We also report nonlinear electric field structures which may play a role in supporting parallel electric fields. These structures include large-amplitude ion cyclotron waves in the upward current region, and intense, spiky electric fields in the downward current region. The observed structures had substantial parallel components and correlative electron flux modulations. Observations of parallel electric fields in two distinct plasmas suggest that parallel electric fields may be a fundamental particle acceleration mechanism in astrophysical plasmas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2025-2028
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1998


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