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A Swarm, SuperDARN, and ICEBEAR Collaboration – Turbulent E-region Aurora Measurements (SSIC-TEAM)



Living Planet Fellowship research project carried out by Devin Huyghebaert.

The Swarm SuperDARN ICEBEAR Collaboration – Turbulent E-region Aurora Measurements (SSIC-TEAM) project will focus on the Farley-Buneman Instability (FBI) and its effects on plasma density irregularity and turbulence generation in the E-region ionosphere.  A better understanding of the FBI is required due to its potential for turbulent heating of the ionospheric E-region plasma during active ionospheric events driven by magnetospheric and solar effects. Heating of the ionosphere affects plasma circulation patterns and neutral atmospheric dynamics.  Understanding the sources of ionospheric heating is essential to better model and predict space weather impacts on the terrestrial atmosphere.

The FBI is a plasma density instability that has a positive growth rate when electrons in a plasma have a velocity that is greater than the ion velocity by at least the ion-acoustic speed. This instability is able to occur in the E-region of the ionosphere, primarily at altitudes of 90-120 km. The instability generates plasma density irregularities at a multitude of characteristic wavelengths, where the growth rate and phase speed of the irregularities are related to the electron motion direction.  Plasma density irregularities are a signature of plasma turbulence occurring in the ionosphere and can be measured using ground based ionospheric radars.

Through the use of measurements from the Swarm satellite constellation and coherent scatter radars the physical phenomena associated with the FBI will be investigated.  The magnetometer and Electric Field Instrument (EFI) will be used from the Swarm Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie satellites to provide essential context for the coherent scatter radar measurements.  The Fast Auroral Imager (FAI) from the recently added Swarm Echo satellite will also be utilized to provide optical details of the region when available.  For coherent scatter radars both the Ionospheric Continuous-wave E-region Bistatic Experimental Auroral Radar (ICEBEAR) and Saskatoon Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) radars will be used in the studies.  These radars are based out of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and have a field of view located in the terrestrial auroral zone.  Due to the recent advances in radio hardware and techniques it is now possible to obtain measurements from these different instruments on similar spatial and temporal resolution scales.


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