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  • Article
  • Open Access

Rocket observation of energetic electrons in the low-altitude auroral ionosphere during the DELTA campaign

Earth, Planets and Space200658:BF03352005

  • Received: 16 November 2005
  • Accepted: 6 June 2006
  • Published:


This paper reports on properties of energetic electrons observed by the Auroral Particle Detector (APD) on board the sounding rocket S-310-35, which was launched from And/0ya Rocket Range, Norway, at 0033:00 UT on 13 December 2004 during the DELTA campaign. The APD was designed to measure energy spectra of energetic electrons in the range of 3.5 to 65 keV every 10 ms using avalanche photodiodes. The measurement was done at altitudes of 90–140 km (apogee height of the rocket flight), which corresponded to the collisional interaction region of precipitating electrons with the atmospheric constituents. The overall profile of energetic electron precipitations was consistent with auroral images taken from the ground. The downward fluxes almost always exceeded those of upward electrons, and the ratio of downward to upward fluxes increased with energy and also with altitude. This is reasonably understood in terms of the effect of collisions between the energetic electrons and the atmospheric constituents. An interesting feature in energy spectra of precipitating electrons is the existence of non-thermal electrons at higher energies, regardless of inside or outside of auroral arcs. In order to predict the incident downward spectra at the top of the atmosphere, we have applied an analytic method of Luhmann (1976) to evaluate the collisional effect on the electron spectra. As a result, most of the observed energy spectra of precipitating electrons are well expressed by kappa distributions with the thermal energy of a few hundreds of eV and kappa of 5–8, while the spectrum inside a strong arc is better fitted by the sum of a Maxwellian distribution on the lower energy side and a power law at higher energies. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first direct and reliable measurement of energy spectra of electrons in the 10-keV energy range in the auroral ionosphere.

Key words

  • Auroral electron
  • kappa distribution
  • medium-energy
  • non-thermal
  • sounding rocket
  • APD