Observations of Vertical Reflections from the Topside Martian Ionosphere
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The Martian ionosphere has for the first time been probed by a low frequency topside radio wave sounder experiment (MARSIS) (Gurnett et al., 2005). The density profiles in the Martian ionosphere have for the first time been observed for solar zenith angles less than 48 degrees. The sounder spectrograms typically have a single trace of echoes, which are controlled by reflections from the ionosphere in the direction of nadir. With the local density at the spacecraft derived from the sounder measurements and using the lamination technique the spectrograms are inverted to electron density profiles. The measurements yield electron density profiles from the sub-solar region to past the terminator. The maximum density varies in time with the solar rotation period, indicating control of the densities by solar ionizing radiation. Electron density increases associated with solar flares were observed. The maximum electron density varies with solar zenith angle as predicted by theory. The altitude profile of electron densities between the maximum density and about 170m altitude is well approximated by a classic Chapman layer. The neutral scale height is close to 10 to 13 km. At altitudes above 180 km the densities deviate from and are larger than inferred by the Chapman layer. At altitudes above the exobase the density decrease was approximated by an exponential function with scale heights between 24 and 65 km. The densities in the top side ionosphere above the exobase tends to be larger than the densities extrapolated from the Chapman layer fitted to the measurements at lower altitudes, implying more efficient upward diffusion above the collision dominated photo equilibrium region.
KeywordsMars ionosphere electron densities top side sounder
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