October 14, 2014

Plasma environment of Mars as observed by simultaneous MEX-ASPERA-3 and MEX-MARSIS observations

Dubinin, E. et Al.
Journal of Geophysical Research, Volume 113, Issue A10, CiteID A10217

Summary: Simultaneous in situ measurements carried out by the Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms (ASPERA-3) and Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instruments on board the Mars Express (MEX) spacecraft for the first time provide us with the local parameters of cold ionospheric and hot solar wind plasma components in the different regions of the Martian magnetosphere and ionosphere. On the dayside, plasma of ionospheric and exospheric origin expands to large altitudes and gets in touch with the solar wind plasma. Formation of the magnetic field barrier which terminates the solar wind flow is governed by solar wind. The magnetic field rises up to the value which is just sufficient to balance the solar wind pressure while the position of the magnetospheric boundary varies insignificantly. Although, within the magnetic barrier, solar wind plasma is depleted, the total electron density increases owing to the enhanced contribution of planetary plasma. In some cases, a load caused by a planetary plasma becomes so strong that a pileup of the magnetic field occurs in a manner which forms a discontinuity (the magnetic pileup boundary). Generally, the structure of the magnetospheric boundary on the dayside varies considerably, and this variability is probably controlled by the magnetic field orientation. Inside the magnetospheric boundary, the electron density continues to increase and forms the photoelectron boundary which sometimes almost coincides with the magnetospheric boundary. The magnetic field strength also increases in this region, implying that the planetary plasma driven into the bulk motion transports the magnetic field inward. A cold and denser ionospheric plasma at lower altitudes reveals a tailward cometary-like expansion. Large-amplitude oscillations in the number density of the ionospheric plasma are another typical feature. Crossings of plasma sheet at low altitudes in the terminator region are characterized by depletions in the density of the ionospheric component. In some cases, density depletions correlate with large vertical components of the crustal magnetic field. Such anticorrelation in the variations of the densities of the cold ionospheric and hot magnetosheath/plasma sheet plasmas is also rather typical for localized aurora-type events on the nightside.