On the Symmetry of Ionospheric Polar Cap Patch Exits Around Magnetic Midnight
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
We present continuous observations of polar cap patches exiting the polar cap ionosphere into the night time auoral oval. Satellite images of the auroral oval and all-sky camera observations of 630.0 nm airglow patches superimposed onto SuperDARN convection maps, reveals a detailed picture on how patches exiting the polar cap and return to the dayside at night, on both the dusk convection cell and the dawn convection cell. We also present eight years of statistics demonstrating that the MLT distribution of patch exits are marginally affected by the IMF BY polarity 3-4 hours around midnight. Synthesizing our observations with previous results there are two, possibly related, explanations to why patches populate both convection cells almost symmetrically. i) Intake of patch material occur on both convection cells for both IMF BY polarities. ii) According to the patch formation model by Lockwood and Carlson et al.  the excitation of flow associated with transient dayside reconnection produces cigar-shaped patches stretching across both the morning and the evening convection cells. Applying the dynamic polar cap flow model by Cowley and Lockwood , we suggest that dawn-dusk elongated patches may be torn apart at night when they are grabbed by transient tail reconnection. The associated twin cell flow disturbance expanding from the reconnection region will divert plasma towards dawn and dusk. This may explain the observed exits on both convection cells.