Numerical interpretation of high-altitude photoelectron observations

Michael W. Liemohn, R. A. Frahm, J. D. Winningham, Y. Ma, S. Barabash, R. Lundin, J. U. Kozyra, A. F. Nagy, S. M. Bougher, J. Bell, D. Brain, D. Mitchell, J. Luhmann, M. Holmström, H. Andersson, M. Yamauchi, A. Grigoriev, S. McKenna-Lawler, J. R. Sharber, J. R. ScherrerS. J. Jeffers, A. J. Coates, D. R. Linder, D. O. Kataria, E. Kallio, H. Koskinen, T. Säles, P. Riihelä, W. Schmidt, E. Roelof, D. Williams, S. Livi, C. C. Curtis, K. C. Hsieh, B. R. Sandel, M. Grande, M. Carter, J. A. Sauvaud, A. Fedorov, J. J. Thocaven, S. Orsini, R. Cerulli-Irelli, M. Maggi, P. Wurz, P. Bochsler, N. Krupp, J. Woch, M. Fränz, K. Asamura, C. Dierker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The Electron Spectrometer (ELS) instrument of the ASPERA-3 package on the Mars Express satellite has recorded photoelectron energy spectra up to apoapsis ( ∼ 10, 000  km altitude). The characteristic photoelectron shape of the spectrum is sometimes seen well above the ionosphere in the evening sector across a wide range of near-equatorial latitudes. Two numerical models are used to analyze the characteristics of these high-altitude photoelectrons. The first is a global, multi-species MHD code that produces a 3-D representation of the magnetic field and bulk plasma parameters around Mars. It is used here to examine the possibility of magnetic connectivity between the high-altitude flanks of the martian ionosheath and the subsolar ionosphere. It is shown that some field lines in this region are draped interplanetary magnetic lines while others are open field lines (connected to both the IMF and the crustal magnetic field sources). The second model is a kinetic electron transport model that calculates the electron velocity space distribution along a selected, non-uniform, magnetic field line. It is used here to simulate the high-altitude ELS measurements. It is shown that the photoelectrons are essentially confined to the source cone, as governed by magnetic field inhomogeneity along the field line. Reasonable agreement is shown between the data and the model results, and a method is demonstrated for inferring properties of the local and photoelectron source region magnetic field from the ELS measurements. Specifically, the number of sectors in which photoelectrons are measured is a function of the magnetic field intensity ratio and the field's angle with respect to the detector plane. In addition, the sector of the photoelectron flux peak is a function of the magnetic field azimuthal angle in the detector plane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Ionospheres
  • Magnetic fields
  • Magnetospheres
  • Mars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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