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The nightside ionosphere of Mars unveiled by suprathermal electron depletions

Abstract : The nightside ionosphere of Mars still remains an unfamiliar and mysterious place. Nightside suprathermal electron depletions are specific features of this region which have been observed at Mars by three spacecraft to date: Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars EXpress (MEX) and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission. Their study enables the observation of the nightside ionosphere structure and dynamics as well as the underlying neutral atmosphere, the specific Martian magnetic topology, and possible conduits for atmospheric escape. Structures as different as magnetic cusps, current sheets or the UV terminator can be investigated through suprathermal electron depletions, due to the processes leading to their observation on the nightside of Mars. The main goal of my PhD has been to use the complementarity of the three missions MGS, MEX, and MAVEN to understand the different mechanisms at the origin of suprathermal electron depletions and their implication on the structure and the dynamics of the nightside ionosphere. In this context, three simple criteria adapted to each mission have been implemented to identify suprathermal electron depletions from 1999 to 2017. A statistical study reveals a transition region near 170 km altitude separating the collisional region where suprathermal electron depletions are directly due to electron absorption by atmospheric CO_2 and the collisionless region where they are mainly due to electron exclusion by closed crustal magnetic field loops. Understanding of these phenomena enables me to estimate the location of the UV terminator. It appears to be located ~120 km above the optical terminator, though this location is different between the dawn and dusk terminator and is expected to vary throughout the different Martian seasons.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 19, 2018 - 11:32:06 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 4:07:03 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, October 20, 2018 - 1:12:50 PM


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  • HAL Id : tel-01844304, version 1



Morgane Steckiewicz. The nightside ionosphere of Mars unveiled by suprathermal electron depletions. Astrophysics [astro-ph]. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017TOU30142⟩. ⟨tel-01844304⟩



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