Can Earth’s magnetotail plasma sheet produce a source of relativistic electrons for the radiation belts?
Abstract Simultaneous observations from Van Allen Probes (RBSP) in Earth’s outer radiation belt (∼4-6 RE) and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) in the magnetotail plasma sheet at >20 RE geocentric distance are used to compare relative levels of relativistic electron phase space density (PSD) for constant values of the first adiabatic invariant, M. We present new evidence from two events showing: i) at times, there is sufficient PSD in the central plasma sheet to provide a source of >1 MeV electrons into the outer belt; ii) the most intense levels of relativistic electrons are not accelerated in the solar wind or transported from the inner magnetosphere and thus must be accelerated rapidly (within ∼minutes or less) and efficiently across a broad region of the magnetotail itself; and iii) the highest intensity relativistic electrons observed by MMS were confined within only the central plasma sheet. The answer to the title question here is: yes, it can, however whether Earth’s plasma sheet actually does provide a source of several 100s keV to >1 MeV electrons to the outer belt and how often it does so remain important outstanding questions.
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Geophysical Research Letters
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