, Volume 17, Issue 2-4, pp 563-587

Observations of birkeland currents

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Recent measurements of precipitating energetic particles and vector magnetic fields from satellites and sounding rockets have verified the existence of geomagnetically-aligned electric currents at high latitudes in the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The spatial and temporal configuration of such currents, now commonly called Birkeland currents, has delineated their role in providing ionospheric closure of magnetospheric current systems, and gross features of these current systems may be understood in terms of theoretical models of magnetospheric convection. The association of Birkeland currents with auroral features on a very small scale suggests that auroral acceleration may result from the current flow.