Identifying the Driver of Pulsating Aurora

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Science  01 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6000, pp. 81-84
DOI: 10.1126/science.1193186

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Pulsating aurora, a spectacular emission that appears as blinking of the upper atmosphere in the polar regions, is known to be excited by modulated, downward-streaming electrons. Despite its distinctive feature, identifying the driver of the electron precipitation has been a long-standing problem. Using coordinated satellite and ground-based all-sky imager observations from the THEMIS mission, we provide direct evidence that a naturally occurring electromagnetic wave, lower-band chorus, can drive pulsating aurora. Because the waves at a given equatorial location in space correlate with a single pulsating auroral patch in the upper atmosphere, our findings can also be used to constrain magnetic field models with much higher accuracy than has previously been possible.

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