Abstract This paper presents a brief summary of an extensive correlative study of ATS-5 particle and magnetic field data with all-sky photographs from Great Whale River which is near the ‘foot’ of the field lines passing through the ATS-5 satellite. In particular, an effort is made to identify specific particle features with specific auroral displays during substorms, such as a westward travelling surge, poleward expansive motion and drifting patches. Some of the important findings are (i) in early evening hours, the first encounter of ATS-5 with hot plasma is associated with the equatorward shift of the diffuse aurora, but not necessarily with westward travelling surges (even when the satellite is embedded in the plasma sheet.) (ii) In the midnight sector, an injection corresponds very well to the initial brightening of an auroral arc. (iii) Specific features of morning sector auroras (for example, drifting patches) are difficult to correlate with specific particle features (gross features, but not specific). Comparing these results with particle data from low-latitude polar orbiting satellites, it is concluded that the plasma sheet near the earthward edge (consisting of plasmas injected during earlier substorms) is little affected during substorms.