On the interpretation of Langmuir probe data inside a spacecraft sheath
2010 (English)In: Review of Scientific Instruments, ISSN 0034-6748, E-ISSN 1089-7623, Vol. 81, no 10, 105106- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
If a Langmuir probe is located inside the sheath of a negatively charged spacecraft, there is a risk that the probe characteristic is modified compared to that of a free probe in the ambient plasma. We have studied this probe-in-spacecraft-sheath problem in the parameter range of a small Langmuir probe (with radius r(LP)<U-1, there is first a transition region II in applied potential, U-1<< k(B)T(e)/e, as the definition of region III. The main findings in this work are qualitative rather than quantitative. The existence of the transition region points to that special care must be taken to extract plasma parameters from measured I(U-LP) as the probe characteristic is likely to depart from usual OML in crucial respects: (1) the ambient plasma potential U-pl falls into the transition region, but there is no obvious knee or other feature to identify it, (2) there is in this region no exponential part of I-e(U-LP) that can be used to obtain T-e, instead, (3) the probe size is important in determining the curve shape. We have tentatively applied our simplified probe-in-sheath model to real probe data from the Cassini spacecraft, taken in the dense plasma of Saturn's magnetosphere. We propose that our model gives a better description than OML of measured Langmuir probe sweeps in space plasmas where the Langmuir probe is situated within the spacecraft sheath, i.e., for long Debye lengths. The understanding of these probe sweep effects in such regions may improve by self-consistent particle simulations of the spacecraft environment.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 81, no 10, 105106- p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-147114DOI: 10.1063/1.3482155ISI: 000283753400050OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-147114DiVA: diva2:399920