Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type

Senior Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Chia-Lin Huang

Second Advisor

Katharine Duderstadt

Third Advisor

Shawna Hollen


The spatial and temporal distribution of high energy electron precipitation from the Van Allen radiation belts is not currently well-understood. The FIREBIRD-II mission (2015-present) and the Van Allen Probes (2012-2019) provide a unique opportunity to examine the behaviors and drivers of high energy electron precipitation. This study quantifies electron precipitation observed by FIREBIRD-II as a function of radial distance (L-shell), magnetic local time (MLT), hemisphere, and geomagnetic indices (Kp). Electron precipitation was observed to peak at L-shell 4.5-5. Regions of elevated electron precipitation were identified at L-shell 4-6 at dawn (MLT 6-9) and dusk (MLT 15-21). Hemisphere filtering indicated very distinct regions of increased precipitation at late dawn and early dusk at L-shell 4-6 in the Northern Hemisphere, while the Southern Hemisphere showed more overall activity as well as increased activity at early dawn and late dusk. Precipitation at high Kp indices (Kp >= 4) displayed elevated activity at all local times. In addition, multiple studies have proposed electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves as a potential driver of electron precipitation. This work searches for connections between EMIC waves observed by the Van Allen Probes and electron precipitation observed by FIREBIRD-II. During times of observed EMIC activity by the Van Allen Probes the FIREBIRD-II satellites recorded increased precipitation during MLT 0-3, MLT 6-9, and MLT 12-18, with activity being especially notable at MLT 15-18. Electron precipitation in the afternoon sector corresponds well with elevated EMIC wave occurrence rates reported in a previous study [Saikin et al., 2015].

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