High resolution imaging within regions of auroral luminosity reveal complex, highly structured dynamic and often vortical forms which evolve on time scales of the order of several seconds and less. These features are inherently multi-scale in nature with different sizes moving and evolving at different rates. Recent analyses have shown how the scale dependency of these motions can provide new insights into the nature of energy transport across scales occurring in current sheets through the auroral acceleration region. However the processes driving this transport and thus facilitating particle acceleration and the formation of bright and dynamic aurora remain unknown. This is a basic issue not only for advancing understanding of auroral arc formation but moreover for understanding dissipation and particle acceleration in current sheets generally. In this Frontier article we show how dedicated space-borne auroral imagery combined with magnetically conjugate field and particle measurements can be used to advance understanding of this universal physical process. By coupling these measurements with numerical simulations we show how flow shear, magnetic reconnection and tearing may launch a cascade toward smaller scales and conspire to form, shape and structure auroral forms. The simulations show that these processes evolve toward a robust scaling of structured magnetic fields (Bx) with wavenumber (ky) perpendicular to the geomagnetic field where Bx2(ky)/ky ∼ k y-7/3 as observed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)