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Studies of auroral processes using optical methods
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Aurora is a visual manifestation of the complex plasma processes that occur as the solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere. Therefore, studies of the aurora can lead to better understanding of the near-Earth space environment and of fundamental physical processes.This thesis focuses on optical studies of the aurora, both ground-based observations using the Auroral Large Imaging System (ALIS) and measurements from instruments onboard the Japanese micro-satellite Reimei. Various properties of the aurora are studied, such as the characteristic energy of precipitating electrons and scale sizes of diffuse auroral structures. Our understanding of the ionospheric physical processes involved in a particular auroral emission is improved using conjugate particle and optical data.Auroral light is a result of radiative transitions between excited states of the ionospheric gases. These excited states are formed either by direct electron impact or by a series of more complicated processes, involving chemical reactions, where part of the energy is converted into auroral light. Studies of auroral emissions can therefore give information about primary particle fluxes, ionospheric composition, and the magnetospheric and ionospheric processes leading to auroral precipitation. One way of deducing the characteristic energy of the precipitating particles is by using intensity ratios of auroral emissions. To be reliable, this method requires a good understanding of the processes involved in the auroral emissions used. The method works well if the measurements are made along the geomagnetic field lines. Using data from ALIS, both in magnetic zenith and off magnetic zenith, this method is tested for angles further away from the direction of the magnetic field lines. The result shows that it is possible to use this technique to deduce the characteristic energy for angles up to 35 degrees away from magnetic zenith.Using ALIS we have also been able to study structures and variations in diffuse aurora. When mapped to the magnetosphere, this provides information about the characteristics of the modulating wave activity in the magnetospheric source region. A statistical study of the scale sizes of diffuse auroral structures was made and the result shows widths and separation between structures of the order of 13-14 km. When mapped to the magnetosphere, this corresponds to 3-4 ion gyro radii for protons with a typical energy of 7 keV. Magnetometer data show that the structures move southward with a speed close to zero in the plasma convection frame. Stationary mirror mode structures in the magnetospheric equatorial plane are a likely explanation for these diffuse auroral structures. In another study we use measured precipitating electron energy spectra to improve our understanding of how the auroral process itself relates to the 427.8 nm auroral emission, which is often used when studying intensity ratios between different emission lines. The 427.8 nm emission is a fairly simple emission to model, with only a few processes involved, but still has some uncertainties, mostly due to the excitation cross section. Simultaneous measurements of the intensity of this emission from ALIS and the intensity and electron flux from Reimei provide a way to evaluate different sets of cross sections in order to find the best fit to the experimental data. It also allows a comparison of the absolute calibration of ALIS and Reimei imagers, improving the possibility to use the space-borne data for other detailed quantitative studies.In order to compare absolute measurements of aurora using different imagers, optical instruments are usually absolute calibrated by exposing them to a calibration light source. In 2011 an intercalibration workshop was held in Sodankylä, Finland, where nine low light sources were compared to the radioactive Fritz Peak reference source. The results were compared with earlier calibration workshop results and show that the sources are fairly stable. Two sources were also calibrated with the calibration standard source at UNIS, Svalbard, and the results show agreement with the calibration workshop in Sodankylä within 15 to 25%. This confirms the quality of the measurements with ALIS and in turn also of the the Reimei imagers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2013.
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Research subject
Space Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-18633Local ID: 9868f879-cdbe-48b7-bddd-175e2b0faaafISBN: 978-91-7439-740-6ISBN: 978-91-7439-741-3OAI: diva2:991642
Godkänd; 2013; 20130910 (kataxe); Tillkännagivande disputation 2013-10-11 Nedanstående person kommer att disputera för avläggande av teknologie doktorsexamen. Namn: Katarina Axelsson Ämne: Rymdteknik/Space Technology Avhandling: Studies of Auroral Processes Using Optical Methods Opponent: Professor Michael J. Taylor, Utah State University, Logan, USA Ordförande: Docent Hans Nilsson, Institutionen för system- och rymdteknik, Luleå tekniska universitet i Kiruna/Institutet för rymdfysik, Kiruna Tid: Fredag den 1 november 2013, kl 10.00 Plats: Aula, Institutet för rymdfysik, KirunaAvailable from: 2016-09-29 Created: 2016-09-29Bibliographically approved

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