skip to main content


Title: Electron Lifetimes and Diffusion Rates Inferred From ELFIN Measurements at Low Altitude: First Results
Abstract

In the radiation belts, energetic and relativistic electron precipitation into the atmosphere is expected to be mainly controlled over the long term by quasilinear pitch‐angle scattering by whistler‐mode and electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves. Accordingly, statistical electron lifetimes have been derived from quasilinear diffusion theory on the basis of multi‐year wave statistics. However, the full consistency of such statistical quasilinear models of electron lifetimes with both measured electron lifetimes, spectra of trapped and precipitated electron fluxes, and wave‐driven diffusion rates inferred from electron flux measurements, has not yet been verified in detail. In the present study, we use data from Electron Loss and Fields Investigation (ELFIN) mission CubeSats, launched in September 2018 in low Earth orbit, to carry out such comparisons between quasi‐linear diffusion theory and observed electron flux variations. We show that statistical theoretical lifetime models are in reasonable agreement with electron pitch‐angle diffusion rates inferred from the precipitated to trapped 100 keV electron flux ratio measured by ELFIN after correction for atmospheric backscatter, as well as with timescales of trapped electron flux decay independently measured over several days by ELFIN. The present results demonstrate for the first time a broad consistency between timescales of trapped electron flux decay, the pitch‐angle distribution of precipitated electrons, and quasilinear models of wave‐driven electron loss, showing the reliability of such statistical electron lifetime models parameterized by geomagnetic activity for evaluating electron precipitation into the atmosphere during not too disturbed periods.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
2021749 1242918 2019914
NSF-PAR ID:
10375567
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Volume:
126
Issue:
11
ISSN:
2169-9380
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Man‐made very low frequency (VLF) transmitter waves play a critical role in energetic electron scattering and precipitation from the inner radiation belt, a type of which is called wisp precipitation. Wisps exhibit dispersive energy‐versus‐Lspectra due to the evolution of electron cyclotron resonance conditions with near‐monochromatic VLF transmitter waves. Here, we report on such observations of inner belt wisp precipitation events with full pitch angle resolution in the energy range of 50 to ∼500 keV as measured by Electron Loss and Fields Investigation (ELFIN) atL < ∼2 between March 2021 and April 2022. Statistical observations (82 events) reveal occasional (18 events) wisp precipitation events with local bounce‐loss‐cone electron flux enhancements, which provide new information compared with flux enhancements measured in previous studies only in the drift loss cone. Based on magnetic field and plasmaspheric density models, quasilinear theory, and detailed pitch angle distributions of wisps from ELFIN, we have estimated the wisp electron bounce‐averaged pitch angle diffusion coefficients to be of the order of 10−4to 10−2 s−1. These are several orders of magnitude larger than the diffusion rates calculated from models using global statistical averages of VLF transmitter wave power. When using our estimated diffusion coefficients to deduce the associated local transmitter wave amplitudes near the equator, based on quasilinear calculations from a transmitter‐induced electron diffusion model, we find these wave amplitudes to be >1 mV/m. Although probable overestimates, such inferred wave amplitudes exceed the theoretical threshold amplitude for nonlinear interactions, strongly suggesting that it is necessary to include nonlinear effects for an accurate evaluation of energetic electron scattering by transmitter waves.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Discovery of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts by instruments flown on Explorer 1 in 1958 was the first major discovery of the Space Age. The observation of distinct inner and outer zones of trapped megaelectron volt (MeV) particles, primarily protons at low altitude and electrons at high altitude, led to early models for source and loss mechanisms including Cosmic Ray Albedo Neutron Decay for inner zone protons, radial diffusion for outer zone electrons and loss to the atmosphere due to pitch angle scattering. This scattering lowers the mirror altitude for particles in their bounce motion parallel to the Earth's magnetic field until they suffer collisional loss. A view of the belts as quasi‐static inner and outer zones of energetic particles with different sources was modified by observations made during the Solar Cycle 22 maximum in solar activity over 1989–1991. The dynamic variability of outer zone electrons was measured by the Combined Radiation Release and Effects Satellite launched in July 1990. This variability is caused by distinct types of heliospheric structure that vary with the solar cycle. The launch of the twin Van Allen Probes in August 2012 has provided much longer and more comprehensive measurements during the declining phase of Solar Cycle 24. Roughly half of moderate geomagnetic storms, determined by intensity of the ring current carried mostly by protons at hundreds of kiloelectron volts, produce an increase in trapped relativistic electron flux in the outer zone. Mechanisms for accelerating electrons of hundreds of electron volts stored in the tail region of the magnetosphere to MeVenergies in the trapping region are described in this review: prompt and diffusive radial transport and local acceleration driven by magnetospheric waves. Such waves also produce pitch angle scattering loss, as does outward radial transport, enhanced when the magnetosphere is compressed. While quasilinear simulations have been used to successfully reproduce many essential features of the radiation belt particle dynamics, nonlinear wave‐particle interactions are found to be potentially important for causing more rapid particle acceleration or precipitation. The findings on the fundamental physics of the Van Allen radiation belts potentially provide insights into understanding energetic particle dynamics at other magnetized planets in the solar system, exoplanets throughout the universe, and in astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. Computational radiation belt models have improved dramatically, particularly in the Van Allen Probes era, and assimilative forecasting of the state of the radiation belts has become more feasible. Moreover, machine learning techniques have been developed to specify and predict the state of the Van Allen radiation belts. Given the potential Space Weather impact of radiation belt variability on technological systems, these new radiation belt models are expected to play a critical role in our technological society in the future as much as meteorological models do today.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We review comprehensive observations of electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) wave-driven energetic electron precipitation using data collected by the energetic electron detector on the Electron Losses and Fields InvestigatioN (ELFIN) mission, two polar-orbiting low-altitude spinning CubeSats, measuring 50-5000 keV electrons with good pitch-angle and energy resolution. EMIC wave-driven precipitation exhibits a distinct signature in energy-spectrograms of the precipitating-to-trapped flux ratio: peaks at >0.5 MeV which are abrupt (bursty) (lasting ∼17 s, or$\Delta L\sim 0.56$ΔL0.56) with significant substructure (occasionally down to sub-second timescale). We attribute the bursty nature of the precipitation to the spatial extent and structuredness of the wave field at the equator. Multiple ELFIN passes over the same MLT sector allow us to study the spatial and temporal evolution of the EMIC wave - electron interaction region. Case studies employing conjugate ground-based or equatorial observations of the EMIC waves reveal that the energy of moderate and strong precipitation at ELFIN approximately agrees with theoretical expectations for cyclotron resonant interactions in a cold plasma. Using multiple years of ELFIN data uniformly distributed in local time, we assemble a statistical database of ∼50 events of strong EMIC wave-driven precipitation. Most reside at$L\sim 5-7$L57at dusk, while a smaller subset exists at$L\sim 8-12$L812at post-midnight. The energies of the peak-precipitation ratio and of the half-peak precipitation ratio (our proxy for the minimum resonance energy) exhibit an$L$L-shell dependence in good agreement with theoretical estimates based on prior statistical observations of EMIC wave power spectra. The precipitation ratio’s spectral shape for the most intense events has an exponential falloff away from the peak (i.e., on either side of$\sim 1.45$1.45MeV). It too agrees well with quasi-linear diffusion theory based on prior statistics of wave spectra. It should be noted though that this diffusive treatment likely includes effects from nonlinear resonant interactions (especially at high energies) and nonresonant effects from sharp wave packet edges (at low energies). Sub-MeV electron precipitation observed concurrently with strong EMIC wave-driven >1 MeV precipitation has a spectral shape that is consistent with efficient pitch-angle scattering down to ∼ 200-300 keV by much less intense higher frequency EMIC waves at dusk (where such waves are most frequent). At ∼100 keV, whistler-mode chorus may be implicated in concurrent precipitation. These results confirm the critical role of EMIC waves in driving relativistic electron losses. Nonlinear effects may abound and require further investigation.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    In planetary radiation belts, the Kennel‐Petschek flux limit is expected to set an upper limit on trapped electron fluxes at 80–600 keV in the presence of efficient electron loss through pitch‐angle diffusion by whistler‐mode chorus waves generated around the magnetic equator by the same 80–600 keV electron population. Comparisons with maximum measured fluxes have been relatively successful, but several key assumptions of the Kennel‐Petschek model have not been experimentally tested. The Kennel‐Petschek model notably assumes an exponential growth of chorus waves as the trapped electron flux increases, and a fixed maximum wave power gain of about 3. Here, we describe a method for inferring the near‐equatorial wave power gain using only measurements of trapped, precipitating, and backscattered electron fluxes at low altitude. Next, we make use of Electron Losses and Fields Investigation (ELFIN) CubeSats measurements of such electron fluxes during two moderate geomagnetic storms with sustained electron injections to infer the corresponding chorus wave power gains as a function of time, energy, and equatorial trapped electron flux. We show that wave power increases exponentially with trapped flux, with a wave power gain roughly proportional to the theoretical linear convective gain, and that the maximum inferred gain near the upper flux limit is roughly 10, with a factor of 2 uncertainty. Therefore, two key theoretical underpinnings of the Kennel‐Petschek model are borne out by the present results, although the strong inferred gains should correspond to higher flux limits than in traditional estimates.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves lead to rapid scattering of relativistic electrons in Earth's radiation belts, due to their large amplitudes relative to other waves that interact with electrons of this energy range. A central feature of electron precipitation driven by EMIC waves is deeply elusive. That is, moderate precipitating fluxes at energies below the minimum resonance energy of EMIC waves occur concurrently with strong precipitating fluxes at resonance energies in low‐altitude spacecraft observations. This paper expands on a previously reported solution to this problem: nonresonant scattering due to wave packets. The quasi‐linear diffusion model is generalized to incorporate nonresonant scattering by a generic wave shape. The diffusion rate decays exponentially away from the resonance, where shorter packets lower decay rates and thus widen the energy range of significant scattering. Using realistic EMIC wave packets fromδfparticle‐in‐cell simulations, test particle simulations are performed to demonstrate that intense, short packets extend the energy of significant scattering well below the minimum resonance energy, consistent with our theoretical prediction. Finally, the calculated precipitating‐to‐trapped flux ratio of relativistic electrons is compared to ELFIN observations, and the wave power spectra is inferred based on the measured flux ratio. We demonstrate that even with a narrow wave spectrum, short EMIC wave packets can provide moderately intense precipitating fluxes well below the minimum resonance energy.

     
    more » « less