Space Science Reviews

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 269-312

First online:

Quasistatic electric field measurements with spherical double probes on the GEOS and ISEE satellites

  • A. PedersenAffiliated withSpace Science Department of ESA/ESTEC
  • , C. A. CattellAffiliated withPhysics Department and Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California
  • , C. -G. FälthammarAffiliated withRoyal Institute of Technology
  • , V. FormisanoAffiliated withSpace Science Department of ESA/ESTEC
  • , P. -A. LindqvistAffiliated withRoyal Institute of Technology
  • , F. MozerAffiliated withPhysics Department and Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California
  • , R. TorbertAffiliated withPhysics Department and Space Sciences Laboratory, University of CaliforniaPhysics Department, University of California

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Spherical double probes for measurements of electric fields on the GEOS-1, GEOS-2, and ISEE-1 satellites are described. An essential feature of these satellites is their conductive surfaces which eliminate errors due to differential charging and enable meaningful diagnostic experiments to be carried out. The result of these experiments is a good understanding of interactions between the plasma, the satellite and the probes, including photo-electron emission on satellite and probes. Electric field measurements are compared with measurements of plasma drift perpendicular to the magnetic field in the solar wind and the magnetosphere and the error bar for the absolute values of the electric field is found to be in the range ±(0.5–1.0) mV m-1 whereas relative variations can be determined with much better accuracy. A useful by-product from a spherical double probe system is the determination of satellite floating potential which is related to the plasma electron flux. This measurement allows high time resolution studies of boundary crossings. Examples of electric field measurements, which reflect the recent scientific results, are given for different regions of the magnetosphere from the bow shock, the inner magnetosphere and the tail. Several examples of simultaneous GEOS-ISEE observations are described.