Plasma density enhancements created by the ionization of the Earth's upper atmosphere by artificial electron beams

Torsten Neubert, P.M. Banks

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    We present analytical calculations and experimental observations relating to the interaction with the Earth's upper atmosphere of electron beams emitted from low altitude spacecraft. The problem is described by two coupled non-linear differential equations in the up-going (along a magnetic field line) and down-going differential energy flux. The equations are solved numerically, using the MSIS atmospheric model and the IRI ionospheric model. The results from the model compare well with recent observations from the CHARGE 2 sounding rocket experiment. Two aspects of the beam-neutral atmosphere interaction are discussed: First we investigate the limits on the electron beam current that can be emitted from a space. craft without substantial spacecraft charging. This question is important because the charging of the spacecraft to positive potentials limits the current and the escape energy of the beam electrons and thereby limits the ionization of the neutral atmosphere. As an example we find from CHARGE 2 observations and from the model calculations that below about 180 km, secondary electrons generated through the ionization of the neutral atmosphere by 1-10 keV electron beams from sounding rockets, completely balance the beam current, thereby allowing the emission of very high beam currents, Second, the amount of plasma production in the beam-streak is discussed. Results are shown for selected values of the beam energy, spacecraft velocity, and spacecraft altitude.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication dateOct 1990
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 1990
    EventAGARD Conference - Bergen, Norway
    Duration: 1 Jan 1990 → …


    ConferenceAGARD Conference
    Period01/01/1990 → …


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