Low-energy ions: A previously hidden solar system particle population
2012 (English)In: Geophysical Research Letters, ISSN 0094-8276, Vol. 39, L03101- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Ions with energies less than tens of eV originate from the Terrestrial ionosphere and from several planets and moons in the solar system. The low energy indicates the origin of the plasma but also severely complicates detection of the positive ions onboard sunlit spacecraft at higher altitudes, which often become positively charged to several tens of Volts. We discuss some methods to observe low-energy ions, including a recently developed technique based on the detection of the wake behind a charged spacecraft in a supersonic flow. Recent results from this technique show that low-energy ions typically dominate the density in large regions of the Terrestrial magnetosphere on the nightside and in the polar regions. These ions also often dominate in the dayside magnetosphere, and can change the dynamics of processes like magnetic reconnection. The loss of this low-energy plasma to the solar wind is one of the primary pathways for atmospheric escape from planets in our solar system. We combine several observations to estimate how common low-energy ions are in the Terrestrial magnetosphere and briefly compare with Mars, Venus and Titan.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 39, L03101- p.
Geophysics Physical Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-169953DOI: 10.1029/2011GL050242ISI: 000299991700002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-169953DiVA: diva2:508430