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  1. Abstract The Van Allen Probes Electric Fields and Waves (EFW) instrument provided measurements of electric fields and spacecraft floating potentials over a wide dynamic range from DC to 6.5 kHz near the equatorial plane of the inner magnetosphere between 600 km altitude and 5.8 Re geocentric distance from October 2012 to November 2019. The two identical instruments provided data to investigate the quasi-static and low frequency fields that drive large-scale convection, waves induced by interplanetary shock impacts that result in rapid relativistic particle energization, ultra-low frequency (ULF) MHD waves which can drive radial diffusion, and higher frequency wave fields and time domain structures that provide particle pitch angle scattering and energization. In addition, measurements of the spacecraft potential provided a density estimate in cold plasmas ( $<20~\text{eV}$ < 20 eV ) from 10 to $3000~\text{cm}^{-3}$ 3000 cm − 3 . The EFW instrument provided analog electric field signals to EMFISIS for wave analysis, and it received 3d analog signals from the EMFISIS search coil sensors for inclusion in high time resolution waveform data. The electric fields and potentials were measured by current-biased spherical sensors deployed at the end of four 50 m booms in the spacecraft spin plane (spin period $\sim11~\text{sec}$ ∼ 11 sec ) and a pair of stacer booms with a total tip-tip separation of 15 m along the spin axis. Survey waveform measurements at 16 and/or 32 S/sec (with a nominal uncertainty of 0.3 mV/m over the prime mission) were available continuously while burst waveform captures at up to 16,384 S/sec provided high frequency waveforms. This post-mission paper provides the reader with information useful for accessing, understanding and using EFW data. Selected science results are discussed and used to highlight instrument capabilities. Science quantities, data quality and error sources, and analysis routines are documented. 
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  3. Abstract

    This study investigates the energy spectrum of electron microbursts observed by the Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics II (FIREBIRD‐II, henceforth FIREBIRD) CubeSats. FIREBIRD is a pair of CubeSats, launched in January 2015 into a low Earth orbit, which focuses on studying electron microbursts. High‐resolution electron data from FIREBIRD‐II consist of 5 differential energy channels between 200 keV and 1 MeV and a1 MeV integral channel. This covers an energy range that has not been well studied from low Earth orbit with good energy and time resolution. This study aims to improve the understanding of the scattering mechanism behind electron microbursts by investigating their spectral properties and their relationship with the equatorial electron population under different geomagnetic conditions. Microbursts are identified in the region of the North Atlantic where FIREBIRD only observes electrons in the bounce loss cone. The electron flux and exponential energy spectrum of each microburst are calculated using a FIREBIRD instrument response modeled in GEANT4 (GEometry ANd Tracking) and compared with the near‐equatorial electron spectra measured by the Van Allen Probes. Microbursts occurring when the Auroral Electrojet (AE) index is enhanced tend to carry more electrons with relatively higher energies. The microburst scattering mechanism is more efficient at scattering electrons with lower energies; however, the difference in scattering efficiency between low and high energy is reduced during periods of enhanced AE.

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  4. Abstract

    This study considers the impact of electron precipitation from Earth's radiation belts on atmospheric composition using observations from the NASA Van Allen Probes and NSF Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics (FIREBIRD II) CubeSats. Ratios of electron flux between the Van Allen Probes (in near‐equatorial orbit in the radiation belts) and FIREBIRD II (in polar low Earth orbit) during spacecraft conjunctions (2015–2017) allow an estimate of precipitation into the atmosphere. Total Radiation Belt Electron Content, calculated from Van Allen Probes RBSP‐ECT MagEIS data, identifies a sustained 10‐day electron loss event in March 2013 that serves as an initial case study. Atmospheric ionization profiles, calculated by integrating monoenergetic ionization rates across the precipitating electron flux spectrum, provide input to the NCAR Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model in order to quantify enhancements of atmospheric HOxand NOxand subsequent destruction of O3in the middle atmosphere. Results suggest that current APEEP parameterizations of radiation belt electrons used in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project may underestimate the duration of events as well as higher energy electron contributions to atmospheric ionization and modeled NOxconcentrations in the mesosphere and upper stratosphere.

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    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 to 5 Hz Nyquist (nominally) with <0.3 nT/sqrt(Hz) noise at 1 Hz. The spinning satellites (T spin $\,\sim $ ∼ 3 s) are equipped with magnetorquers (air coils) that permit spin-up or -down and reorientation maneuvers. Using those, the spin axis is placed normal to the orbit plane (nominally), allowing full pitch-angle resolution twice per spin. An energetic particle detector for ions (EPDI) measures 250 keV – 5 MeV ions, addressing secondary science. Funded initially by CalSpace and the University Nanosat Program, ELFIN was selected for flight with joint support from NSF and NASA between 2014 and 2018 and launched by the ELaNa XVIII program on a Delta II rocket (with IceSatII as the primary). Mission operations are currently funded by NASA. Working under experienced UCLA mentors, with advice from The Aerospace Corporation and NASA personnel, more than 250 undergraduates have matured the ELFIN implementation strategy; developed the instruments, satellite, and ground systems and operate the two satellites. ELFIN’s already high potential for cutting-edge science return is compounded by concurrent equatorial Heliophysics missions (THEMIS, Arase, Van Allen Probes, MMS) and ground stations. ELFIN’s integrated data analysis approach, rapid dissemination strategies via the SPace Environment Data Analysis System (SPEDAS), and data coordination with the Heliophysics/Geospace System Observatory (H/GSO) optimize science yield, enabling the widest community benefits. Several storm-time events have already been captured and are presented herein to demonstrate ELFIN’s data analysis methods and potential. These form the basis of on-going studies to resolve the primary mission science objective. Broad energy precipitation events, precipitation bands, and microbursts, clearly seen both at dawn and dusk, extend from tens of keV to >1 MeV. This broad energy range of precipitation indicates that multiple waves are providing scattering concurrently. Many observed events show significant backscattered fluxes, which in the past were hard to resolve by equatorial spacecraft or non-pitch-angle-resolving ionospheric missions. These observations suggest that the ionosphere plays a significant role in modifying magnetospheric electron fluxes and wave-particle interactions. Routine data captures starting in February 2020 and lasting for at least another year, approximately the remainder of the mission lifetime, are expected to provide a very rich dataset to address questions even beyond the primary mission science objective. 
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  6. Magnetic reconnection is an energy conversion process that occurs in many astrophysical contexts including Earth’s magnetosphere, where the process can be investigated in situ by spacecraft. On 11 July 2017, the four Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft encountered a reconnection site in Earth’s magnetotail, where reconnection involves symmetric inflow conditions. The electron-scale plasma measurements revealed (i) super-Alfvénic electron jets reaching 15,000 kilometers per second; (ii) electron meandering motion and acceleration by the electric field, producing multiple crescent-shaped structures in the velocity distributions; and (iii) the spatial dimensions of the electron diffusion region with an aspect ratio of 0.1 to 0.2, consistent with fast reconnection. The well-structured multiple layers of electron populations indicate that the dominant electron dynamics are mostly laminar, despite the presence of turbulence near the reconnection site. 
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