Non-Maxwellian ion velocity distributions observed using EISCAT
Recent observations from the EISCAT incoherent scatter radar have revealed bursts of poleward ion flow in the dayside auroral ionosphere which are consistent with the ionospheric signature of flux transfer events at the magnetopause. These bursts frequently contain ion drifts which exceed the neutral thermal speed and, because the neutral thermospheric wind is incapable of responding sufficiently rapidly, toroidal, non‐Maxwellian ion velocity distributions are expected. The EISCAT observations are made with high time resolution (15 seconds) and at a large angle to the geomagnetic field (73.5°), allowing the non‐Maxwellian nature of the distribution to be observed remotely for the first time. The observed features are also strongly suggestive of a toroidal distribution: characteristic spectral shape, increased scattered power (both consistent with reduced Landau damping and enhanced electric field fluctuations) and excessively high line‐of‐sight ion temperatures deduced if a Maxwellian distribution is assumed. These remote sensing observations allow the evolution of the distributions to be observed. They are found to be non‐Maxwellian whenever the ion drift exceeds the neutral thermal speed, indicating that such distributions can exist over the time scale of the flow burst events (several minutes).
Authors: Lockwood, M., Bromage, B.J.I., Horne, Richard B. ORCID record for Richard B. Horne, St-Maurice, J.-P., Willis, D.M., Cowley, S.W.H.