Generation of auroral kilometric radiation by electron horseshoe distributions

R. Bingham, R. A. Cairns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


High time resolution of rocket and satellite electron distribution functions within the source region of auroral kilometric radiation display a characteristic crescent shaped or horseshoe distribution. Such distribution functions are created by a field aligned electron beam moving into an increasing magnetic field, conservation of the first adiabatic invariant causes an increase of their pitch angle. This produces a broad region on the distribution function where ∂fe/∂v⊥>0, and is a possible source of free energy leading to radio wave emission by the cyclotron maser instability, which is more efficient than the conventional loss-cone maser instability. The stability of these electron horseshoe distribution functions is examined for right-hand extraordinary mode (R–X mode) radiation close to the electron cyclotron frequency propagating perpendicular to the magnetic field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3089-3092
Number of pages4
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


  • cumulative distribution functions
  • auroral phenomena
  • magnetic fields
  • masers
  • electron beams


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