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The S3–4 ionospheric irregularities satellite experiment: Probe detection of multi-ion component plasmas and associated effects on instability processes

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Abstract

The pulsed plasma probe technique has been expanded to include simultaneous determinations of absolute electron density, density fluctuations, electron temperature, and mean-ion-mass with resolution limited only by probe geometry, sheath size, and telemetry. The technique has been designed to test for coupling of electron density variations and ion composition irregularities in multi-component plasmas by the comparison of electron density fluctuation power spectraP N(k) and a newly-developed diagnostic parameter, the mean-ion-mass fluctuation spectraδM i/M iP M(k). In addition, the experiment extends satellite-borne irregularity spectral analyses down to the 5–20 m range while attempting to identify F-region plasma instability processes on the basis of characteristics inN e,T e, ∇N e,P N,M i, andP M. Initial results demonstrate the expanded diagnostic capability for high spatial resolution measurements of mean-ion-mass and provide experimental evidence for the role of ion composition in multi-stepped plasma instability processes. Specific results include a spectral indexX n inP N=A nf−X n of 1.6–2.9 over the wavelength range from 1 km to 6 m under conditions identified with an unstable equatorial nighttime ionosphere. Simultaneous measurements ofδM i/M i(→P M=A M f −X m) andδN e/N e(→P N=A n f −X n) have shown a general behavior tending to lower power (A m<A n) and softer spectra (X m<X n) in ion mass fluctuations when compared with fluctuations in total plasma density. Limited analyses of the two power spectral elements raise hopes for the differentiation between plasma mechanisms that can lead to similar indices inP N.

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Paper originally submitted to the journalSpace Science Instrumentation.

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Szuszczewicz, E.P., Holmes, J.C. & Singh, M. The S3–4 ionospheric irregularities satellite experiment: Probe detection of multi-ion component plasmas and associated effects on instability processes. Astrophys Space Sci 86, 235–248 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00683335

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Keywords

  • Density Fluctuation
  • Spectral Element
  • Ionospheric Irregularity
  • Soft Spectrum
  • Probe Geometry