Daytime (or dayside cleft) aurora is almost a permanent feature of the midday skies over Spitsbergen during the continuous darkness of the polar night It was observed in one or other of its characteristic forms around geomagnetic noon on 58 of 59 clear day sduring the wintersof 1987/1988, 1990/1991, and 1992/1993. The three types of day time aurora were studied by visual, colour photographic, and interference-filter techniques to confirm the precise nature of the observed emissions. Prenoon aurora, which is characterised by diffuse, patchy, green aurora at 557.7 nm, was observed on 42 occasions. It is generated by low-energy electrons of less than 300 eV coming through the entry layer of the dayside cleft. Noontime aurora, which consists largely of pure red emissions at 630.0/636.4 nm, was observed on 50 occasions. It is generated by high-flux, very low-energy electrons of 10–50 eV flowing directly from the solar wind through the polar cusp. Postnoon aurora, which is characterised by discrete, green auroral arcs at 557.7 nm, was also observed on 42 occasions. Like prenoon aurora, it is generated by low-energy electrons of less than 300 eV derived from the entry layer of the cleft Occasionally, some background or diffuse aurora is also observed, generated by high fluxes of low-energy proton precipitation and characterised by the hydrogen lines Hα and Hβ. On the one exceptional day on which daytime aurora was not observed, magnetic activity was exceptionally low.
These ground-based observations complement satellite studies of analogous auroral events. In particular, the visual characteristics of the different types of daytime aurora may be explained in terms of the flux rates and energy profiles of the electrons that have been mapped in the different regions of the dayside cleft by satellite-borne detectors.