Observations of Spatial Variations in O/N <sub>2</sub> During an Auroral Substorm Using the Multichannel Downlooking Camera on the VISIONS Rocket


At 0821 UT on 7 February 2013, during an auroral substorm, the NASA VISIONS rocket was launched northward from Poker Flat Research Range on a flight to approximately 750-km altitude that terminated in the Arctic Ocean. A subpayload jettisoned on the up leg carried a multichannel optical imager that looked downward and observed the auroral emission through four narrow passband filters. Three of the channels had sufficiently strong signal to allow a measure of the time evolution of the horizontal extent of the electron aurora and changes in the ratio of the column O to the column N2. These data revealed rather rapid changes in this measure of composition over an area larger than would be expected from the changes expected from particle and Joule heating. Although such rapid large changes have been observed previously, and Christensen et al. (1997, https://doi.org/10.1029/97JA01800) had hypothesized that they were due to enhanced turbulent diffusion, this imaging experiment is the first to show their evolution over a large area. On the down leg the camera was able to see the vertical spatial extent of the auroral emission which is consistent with the decrease in O/N2 seen in the downlooking data. The change in this ratio with altitude suggests the deposition of an additional number of low-energy electrons that would cause a larger decrease in that ratio at higher altitudes.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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