Balloon Measurements of Electric Fields Above MACCS

Proposal Summary

Not Under Consideration at Present
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3 years


We propose a combined theoretical and experimental study of the ionospheric electric field at high magnetic latitude. The electric field drives the bulk ``convective" motions of plasma in the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The University of Houston has accumulated 50 days of ionospheric electric field and X-ray counting rate data obtained by balloon-borne sensors at magnetic latitudes from the plasmapause to the polar cap. These data have produced many significant findings over the past several years. The objectives of this study are as follows: 1. Validation of existing high-latitude convection models will be done using the UH data base. Based on the results of these tests, we expect to improve existing models and learn how the parameters of these models vary as a function of solar wind conditions. These results will refine the plan for the experimental work. 2. We will obtain more electric field and X-ray counting rate data at the latitude of the polar cusp in the Northern Hemisphere. We plan to fly ten small stratospheric balloons equipped with electric field and X-ray bremsstrahlung detectors at the latitude of the polar cusp in northern Canada. This plan is motivated by a new zonal array of magnetometers at cusp latitude, the Magnetometer Array for Cusp and Cleft Studies (MACCS). The longitudinal extent of this array is large enough to enable us to obtain 80-100 hour flights entirely within the array by use of ballast droppers and multiple ground stations. One focus of the data analysis will be to study high latitude impulsive events using combined electric field, magnetic field, X-ray precipitation and imaging riometer data. This research addresses questions concerning the flow of energy from the solar wind into the magnetosphere. These questions are central to the scientific mission of Space Physics Division. In particular, this work will complement the results of the POLAR and GEOTAIL missions. A recent relevant publication is ``Balloon observations of nightside Pc 5 quasi-electrostatic waves above the south pole,'' B. Liao, J. R. Benbrook, E.A. Bering, III, G. J. Byrne, J.R. Theall, L. J. Lanzerotti and C. G. Maclennan, J. Geophys. Res., 99(A3), 3879-3892, (1994). This proposal is a collaboration between the University of Houston and the Prairie View A&M University (an HBCU) and has a purpose of strengthening the new space science program at the latter.