Abstract The Electron Loss and Fields Investigation with a Spatio-Temporal Ambiguity-Resolving option (ELFIN-STAR, or heretoforth simply: ELFIN) mission comprises two identical 3-Unit (3U) CubeSats on a polar (∼93 ∘ inclination), nearly circular, low-Earth (∼450 km altitude) orbit. Launched on September 15, 2018, ELFIN is expected to have a >2.5 year lifetime. Its primary science objective is to resolve the mechanism of storm-time relativistic electron precipitation, for which electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves are a prime candidate. From its ionospheric vantage point, ELFIN uses its unique pitch-angle-resolving capability to determine whether measured relativistic electron pitch-angle and energy spectra within the loss cone bear the characteristic signatures of scattering by EMIC waves or whether such scattering may be due to other processes. Pairing identical ELFIN satellites with slowly-variable along-track separation allows disambiguation of spatial and temporal evolution of the precipitation over minutes-to-tens-of-minutes timescales, faster than the orbit period of a single low-altitude satellite (T orbit ∼ 90 min). Each satellite carries an energetic particle detector for electrons (EPDE) that measures 50 keV to 5 MeV electrons with $\Delta $ Δ E/E < 40% and a fluxgate magnetometer (FGM) on a ∼72 cm boom that measures magnetic field waves (e.g., EMIC waves) in the range from DC tomore »
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Tens to hundreds of keV electron precipitation driven by kinetic Alfvén waves during an electron injection
Electron injections are critical processes associated with magnetospheric substorms, which deposit significant electron energy into the ionosphere. Although wave scattering of <10 keV electrons during injections has been well studied, the link between magnetotail electron injections and energetic (≥100 keV) electron precipitation remains elusive. Using conjugate observations between the ELFIN and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) missions, we present evidence of tens to hundreds of keV electron precipitation to the ionosphere potentially driven by kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) associated with magnetotail electron injections and magnetic field gradients. Test particle simulations adapted to observations show that dipolarization-front magnetic field gradients and associated ∇B drifts allow Doppler-shifted Landau resonances between the injected electrons and KAWs, producing electron spatial scattering across the front which results in pitch-angle decreases and subsequent precipitation. Test particle results show that such KAW-driven precipitation can account for ELFIN observations below ∼300 keV.
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- Journal of geophysical research
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- National Science Foundation
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