Low-latitude plasma blobs above Africa: Exploiting GOLD and multi-satellite in situ measurements

Low-latitude plasma blobs are localized density enhancements of electron density that are occasionally observed in the night-time tropical ionosphere. Two-dimensional (2D) imaging of this phenomenon has been rare and frequently restricted to Central/South America, which is densely covered with ground-based airglow imagers and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers. In Africa, on the contrary, no 2D image of a blob has been reported. Here we present two low-latitude blob events above Africa, one in the Northern summer and the other in winter, in the 2-dimensional Far-UltraViolet (FUV) images from the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission. Additionally, multiple satellites (four spacecraft per event) on the Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) encountered the blob events, some within the GOLD images and some outside. The LEO data support the robustness of GOLD observations and bridge time gaps between the consecutive images. Properties of the two blob events above Africa generally support the conclusions in a previous case study for Central/South America. Plasma therein exhibited higher O+ fraction and faster ion flow toward outer L-shells than the ambient. The blobs were conjugate to locally intensified Equatorial Ionization Anomaly crests without conspicuous equatorward-westward propagation. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of GOLD and multiple LEO satellites in monitoring the ionosphere above Africa, which is a fascinating laboratory of low-latitude electrodynamics but still waiting for more observatories to be deployed.
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Advances in Space Research
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