An Overview of Results from RPI on IMAGE

  • J. L. Green
  • B. W. Reinisch


The Radio Plasma Imager (RPI) on the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft was designed as a long-range magnetospheric radio sounder, relaxation sounder, and a passive plasma wave instrument. The RPI is a highly flexible instrument that can be programmed to perform these types of measurements at times when IMAGE is located in key regions of the magnetosphere. RPI is the first radio sounder ever flown to large radial distances into the magnetosphere.

The long-range sounder echoes from RPI allow remote sensing of a variety of plasmas structures and boundaries in the magnetosphere. A profile inversion technique for RPI echo traces has been developed and provides a method for determining the density distribution of the plasma from either direct or field-aligned echoes. This technique has enabled the determination of the evolving density structure of the polar cap and the plasmasphere under a variety of geomagnetic conditions. New results from RPI show that the plasmasphere refills in slightly greater than a day at L values of 2.8 and that ion heating is probably playing a major role in the overall density distribution along the field-line. In addition, RPF’s plasma resonance observations at large radial distances over the polar cap provided in situ measurements of the plasma density with an accuracy of a few percent. For the first time in the magnetosphere, RPI has also observed the plasma D resonances.

RPF’s long antennas and its very low noise receivers provide excellent observations in the passive receive-only mode when the instrument measures the thermal plasma noise as well as natural emissions such as the continuum radiation and auroral kilometric radiation (AKR). Recent passive measurements from RPI have been compared extensively with images from the Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) imager on IMAGE resulting in a number of new discoveries. For instance, these combined observations show that kilometric continuum can be generated at the plasmapause from sources in or very near the magnetic equator, within a bite-out region of the plasmasphere. The process by which plasmaspheric bite-out structures are produced is not completely understood at this time.

Finally, RPI has been used to successfully test the feasibility of magnetospheric tomography. During perigee passages of the Wind spacecraft, RPI radio transmissions at one and two frequencies have been observed by the Waves instrument. The received electric field vector was observed to rotate with time due to the changing density of plasma, and thus Faraday rotation was measured. Many future multi-spacecraft missions propose to use Faraday rotation to obtain global density pictures of the magnetosphere.


Faraday Rotation Emission Cone Auroral Kilometric Radiation Large Radial Distance Image Spacecraft 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. L. Green
    • 1
  • B. W. Reinisch
    • 2
  1. 1.NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  2. 2.Center for Atmospheric ResearchUniversity of MassachusettsLowellUSA

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