Solar Illumination of the Polar Ionosphere and Its Effects on Cold Ion Outflow.
Abstract:Solar illumination is the most important form of energy driving the outflow of cold ionospheric ions in the polar regions, called the polar wind. Due to the offset of the magnetic poles from the rotation axis and Earth's rotational and orbital motion, the part of the magnetic polar cap being illuminated and the part being in the dark, will vary throughout the day and the seasons. Therefore the outflowing ion flux from the whole polar cap will vary accordingly. Moreover, the offset in the Northern hemisphere is different from the one in the Southern hemisphere. Thus the flux from both polar caps will also be different. With a very simple model we will explore the effects of this on the outflowing flux, which will affect the atmospheric erosion as well as the supply of ionospheric ions to the plasma sheet. In recent observations with the Cluster satellites, the heavier O⁺ ions have been shown to be affected more strongly by solar illumination than H⁺ ions. So this may lead to an alteration of the mass density in the plasma sheet on a periodic basis.
This study will also look for signatures of the effects predicted by this model in data of cold ion outflow. The Cluster extensive data set from André et al.  seems best suited for this. It uses the technique detecting the wake formed behind a charged spacecraft in a low density and low energy plasma environment. This technique will generally only observe ions with an energy too low to overcome the spacecraft potential (i.e. ~< 40 eV). The measurements are made in the magnetospheric lobes, up to altitudes of 20 RE, between 2001 and 2010. This long period of observations creates the possibility to study the seasonal variation of cold ion outflow from the polar ionosphere and look for possible differences between both hemispheres.