Observing Dynamics in Large-Scale Birkeland Currents with the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE)
Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 08:43
2016 (Moscone West)
The Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE) provides continuous global observations of the magnetic perturbations that predominantly reflect Birkeland currents. The data are acquired by avionics magnetometers of the Iridium satellites and allow measurements from 66 satellites in near-polar circular, low altitude orbits. The configuration of the Iridium satellite constellation determines the longitude sampling spacing of ~ 2 hours and the re-sampling cadence of the system which is 9 minutes. From 2008 to 2013 the AMPERE system was developed which included new flight software on the Iridium satellites to allow telemetry of higher rate data to the ground and the Science Data Center to derive Birkeland current perturbations from the data and invert these signals to derive the global distributions of the currents using data windows of ten minutes. There were many challenges in developing AMPERE including automating inter-calibration between satellites and the baseline determination and removals. The results of AMPERE provide stunning confirmation of many of the statistical estimates for the distribution of currents but more significantly open a new window to understand their instantaneous distribution and dynamics. Examples of new features of the currents and their dynamics revealed by AMPERE are presented. In addition, prospects for new data products and increased data quality anticipated from AMPERE-NEXT to be implemented on the Iridium-NEXT generation of satellites are discussed.