The Analysis of Data from Voyager's Ultraviolet Spectrometers: The Trend of Observed Interplanetary Lyman-alpha Intensity with Increasing Heliocentric Distance for Multiple Viewing Directions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Chris Raymond Gilbert1,2, Brian Fayock1,3, Jacob Heerikhuisen1,3 and Gary Paul Zank1,3, (1)Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research, Huntsville, AL, United States, (2)Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus, Physics, Atlanta, GA, United States, (3)University of Alabama in Huntsville, Space Science, Huntsville, AL, United States
The motivation for this project was simple: to reduce raw data from the Ultraviolet Spectrometers on both Voyager Spacecraft to verify the results of a simulation of Lyman-alpha radiative transfer within a 3D MHD kinetic-neutral model of the heliosphere created at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The heliospheric model, which self-consistently includes the interaction between ionized and neutral hydrogen, outputs a density map of neutral hydrogen. The Monte Carlo radiative transfer model then simulates the propagation and scattering of millions of photons through this density map and outputs the relative number of photons that should be seen by spacecraft at any point within 1000 AU of the sun. My project was to learn how to analyze the raw Voyager data and compare it to these simulations.

There were several stages of analysis necessary to reduce to useful data. Records containing signals from sources other than the interplanetary medium, such as stars and planets, were discarded. The remaining records were averaged along regional lines of sight to achieve better signal to noise. The spectra were then corrected for inherent device flaws, such as channel-to-channel variations in sensitivity (fixed-pattern noise), dark counts due to the radioisotope thermal electric generator, and imperfections in the scattering of the diffraction grating. Records were then sorted and averaged to create a full-sky map consisting of 18 regions for each specified radial bin to match the cell spacing of the radiative transfer model. The results were then normalized to solar minimum to reduce variations in the data due to solar cycle oscillations.

Initial results indicate an unexpected deviation from the models, but more analysis must be performed to determine if the discrepancy comes from the normalization of the data, insufficient angular resolution of the radiative transfer model, or the physics of the models themselves. Future work involves increasing the resolution of the radiative transfer model and the number of sky regions to try to resolve smaller scale features of the heliosphere.