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Publication . Article . 2008

Continuous monitoring of nightside upper thermospheric mass densities in the martian southern hemisphere over 4 martian years using electron reflectometry

Robert Lillis; Stephen W. Bougher; David L. Mitchell; David Brain; Robert P. Lin; Mario H. Acuña;
Closed Access
Published: 01 Apr 2008 Journal: Icarus, volume 194, pages 562-574 (issn: 0019-1035, Copyright policy )
Publisher: Elsevier BV

Details are presented of an improved technique to use atmospheric absorption of magnetically reflecting solar wind electrons to constrain neutral mass densities in the nightside martian upper thermosphere. The helical motion of electrons on converging magnetic field lines, through an extended neutral atmosphere, is modeled to enable prediction of loss cone pitch angle distributions measured by the Magnetometer/Electron Reflectometer (MAG/ER) experiment on Mars Global Surveyor at 400 km altitude. Over the small fraction of Mars' southern hemisphere (∼2.5%) where the permanent crustal magnetic fields are both open to the solar wind and sufficiently strong as to dominate the variable induced martian magnetotail field, spherical harmonic expansions of the crustal fields are used to prescribe the magnetic field along the electron's path, allowing least-squares fitting of measured loss cones, in order to solve for parameters describing the vertical neutral atmospheric mass density profile from 160 to 230 km. Results are presented of mass densities in the southern hemisphere at 2 a.m. LST at the mean altitude of greatest sensitivity, 180 km, continuously over four martian years. Seasonal variability in densities is largely explained by orbital and latitudinal changes in dayside insolation that impacts the nightside through the resulting thermospheric circulation. However, the physical processes behind repeatable rapid, late autumnal cooling at mid-latitudes and near-aphelion warming at equatorial latitudes is not fully clear. Southern winter polar warming is generally weak or nonexistent over several Mars years, in basic agreement with MGS and MRO accelerometer observations. The puzzling response of mid-latitude densities from 160° to 200° E to the 2001 global dust storm suggests unanticipated localized nightside upper thermospheric lateral and vertical circulation patterns may accompany such storms. The downturn of the 11-year cycle of solar EUV flux is likely responsible for lower aphelion densities in 2004 and 2006 (Mars years 27 and 28).

Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Solar wind Dust storm Geology Martian Pitch angle Southern Hemisphere Flux Meteorology Mars Exploration Program Thermosphere Atmospheric sciences

arXiv: Physics::Space Physics Astrophysics::Earth and Planetary Astrophysics Physics::Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics Physics::Geophysics


Space and Planetary Science, Astronomy and Astrophysics

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