The Evolution of the Plasma Sheet Ion Composition: Storms and Recoveries

The ion plasma sheet (~few hundred eV to ~few 10s keV) is usually dominated by H+ ions. Here, changes in ion composition within the plasma sheet are explored both during individual events, and statistically during 54 calm-to-storm events and during 21 active-to-calm events. Ion composition data from the HOPE (Helium, Oxygen, Proton, Electron) instruments onboard Van Allen Probes satellites provide exceptional spatial and temporal resolution of the H+, O+, and He+ ion fluxes in the plasma sheet. H+ shown to be the dominant ion in the plasma sheet in the calm-to-storm transition. However, the energy-flux of each ion changes in a quasi-linear manner during extended calm intervals. Heavy ions (O+ and He+) become increasingly important during such periods as charge-exchange reactions result in faster loss for H+ than for O+ or He+. Results confirm previous investigations showing that the ion composition of the plasma sheet can be largely understood (and predicted) during calm intervals from knowledge of: (a) the composition of previously injected plasma at the onset of calm conditions, and (b) use of simple drift-physics models combined with calculations of charge-exchange losses.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Date Published