Analysis of In Situ Thermal Ion Measurements from the MICA Sounding Rocket

Friday, 19 December 2014
Philip A Fernandes1, Kristina A Lynch1, Matthew D Zettergren2, Donald L Hampton3, Lisa E Fisher1 and Steven P Powell4, (1)Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, United States, (2)Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ, Daytona Beach, FL, United States, (3)University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States, (4)Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States
The MICA sounding rocket launched on 19 Feb. 2012 into several discrete, localized arcs in the wake of a westward traveling surge. In situ and ground-based observations provide a measured response of the ionosphere to preflight and localized auroral drivers. Initial analysis of the in situ thermal ion data indicate possible measurement of an ion conic at low altitude (< 325 km). In the low-energy regime, the response of the instrument varies from the ideal because the measured thermal ion population is sensitive to the presence of the instrument. The plasma is accelerated in the frame of the instrument due to flows, ram, and acceleration through the sheath which forms around the spacecraft. The energies associated with these processes are large compared to the thermal energy. Correct interpretation of thermal plasma measurements requires accounting for all of these plasma processes and the non-ideal response of the instrument in the low-energy regime. This is an experimental and modeling project which involves thorough analysis of ionospheric thermal ion data from the MICA campaign. Analysis includes modeling and measuring the instrument response in the low-energy regime as well as accounting for the complex sheath formed around the instrument. This results in a forward model in which plasma parameters of the thermal plasma are propagated through the sheath and instrument models, resulting in an output which matches the in situ measurement. In the case of MICA, we are working toward answering the question of the initiating source processes that result, at higher altitudes, in well-developed conics and outflow on auroral field lines.