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It is clear, by now, that there is an adiabatic invariant associated with every periodic motion of a charged particle in an electromagnetic field. Now, we have just demonstrated that, as a consequence of -conservation, the drift orbit of a charged particle precessing around the Earth is approximately closed, despite the fact that the Earth's magnetic field is non-axisymmetric. Thus, there must be a third adiabatic invariant associated with the precession of particles around the Earth. Just as we can define a guiding centre associated with a particle's gyromotion around field-lines, we can also define a bounce centre associated with a particle's bouncing motion between mirror points. The bounce centre lies on the equatorial plane, and orbits the Earth once every drift period, . We can write the third adiabatic invariant as
 (149)

where the path of integration is the trajectory of the bounce centre around the Earth. Note that the drift trajectory effectively collapses onto the trajectory of the bounce centre in the limit in which --all of the particle's gyromotion and bounce motion averages to zero. Now is dominated by its second term, since the drift velocity is very small. Thus,
 (150)

where is the total magnetic flux enclosed by the drift trajectory (i.e., the flux enclosed by the orbit of the bounce centre around the Earth). The above proof'' is, again, not particularly rigorous--the invariance of is demonstrated rigorously by Northrup. Note, of course, that is only a constant of the motion for particles trapped in the inner magnetosphere provided that the magnetospheric magnetic field varies on time-scales much longer than the drift period, . Since the drift period for MeV energy protons and electrons is of order an hour, this is only likely to be the case when the magnetosphere is relatively quiescent (i.e., when there are no geomagnetic storms in progress).

The invariance of has interesting consequences for charged particle dynamics in the Earth's inner magnetosphere. Suppose, for instance, that the strength of the solar wind were to increase slowly (i.e., on time-scales significantly longer than the drift period), thereby, compressing the Earth's magnetic field. The invariance of would cause the charged particles which constitute the Van Allen belts to move radially inwards, towards the Earth, in order to conserve the magnetic flux enclosed by their drift orbits. Likewise, a slow decrease in the strength of the solar wind would cause an outward radial motion of the Van Allen belts.

Next: Motion in Oscillating Fields Up: Charged Particle Motion Previous: Second Adiabatic Invariant
Richard Fitzpatrick 2011-03-31