Rapid acceleration of protons upstream of earthward propagating dipolarization fronts

[1] Transport and acceleration of ions in the magnetotail largely occurs in the form of discrete impulsive events associated with a steep increase of the tail magnetic field normal to the neutral plane (Bz), which are referred to as dipolarization fronts. The goal of this paper is to investigate how protons initially located upstream of earthward moving fronts are accelerated at their encounter. According to our analytical analysis and simplified two-dimensional test-particle simulations of equatorially mirroring particles, there are two regimes of proton acceleration: trapping and quasi-trapping, which are realized depending on whether the front is preceded by a negative depletion in Bz. We then use three-dimensional test-particle simulations to investigate how these acceleration processes operate in a realistic magnetotail geometry. For this purpose we construct an analytical model of the front which is superimposed onto the ambient field of the magnetotail. According to our numerical simulations, both trapping and quasi-trapping can produce rapid acceleration of protons by more than an order of magnitude. In the case of trapping, the acceleration levels depend on the amount of time particles stay in phase with the front which is controlled by the magnetic field curvature ahead of the front and the front width. Quasi-trapping does not cause particle scattering out of the equatorial plane. Energization levels in this case are limited by the number of encounters particles have with the front before they get magnetized behind it.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Number of Pages
Date Published