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Article

3D model of small-scale density cavities in the auroral magnetosphere with field-aligned current

P.A. Bespalov, Misonova V., O.N. Savina.

We propose a 3D model of small-scale density cavities stimulated by an auroral field-aligned current and an oscillating field-aligned current of kinetic Alfvén waves. It is shown that when the field-aligned current increases so that the electron drift velocity exceeds a value of the order of the electron thermal velocity, the plasma becomes unstable to the formation of cavities with low density and strong electric field. The condition of instability is associated with the value of the background magnetic field. In the case of a relatively weak magnetic field (where the electron gyro-radius is greater than the ion acoustic wavelength), the current instability can lead to the formation of one-dimensional cavities along the magnetic field. In the case of a stronger magnetic field (where the ion acoustic wavelength is greater than the electron gyro-radius, but still is less than the ion gyro-radius), the instability can lead to the formation of 3D density cavities. In this case, the spatial scales of the cavity, both along and across the background magnetic field, can be comparable, and at the earlier stage of the cavity formation they are of the order of the ion acoustic wavelength. Rarefactions of the cavity density are accompanied by an increase in the electric field and are limited by the pressure of bipolar electric fields that occur within them. The estimates of typical density cavity characteristics and the results of numerical solutions agree with known experimental data: small-scale structures with a sufficiently strong electric field are observed in the auroral regions with strong field-aligned current.