Numerical simulation of the effects of a solar energetic particle event on the ionosphere of Mars
Simon Wedlund, C.
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We investigate the ionospheric effects of a solar energetic particle (SEP) event at Mars, specifically the 29 September 1989 event. We use its energy spectrum and a steady state ionospheric model to simulate vertical profiles of ion and electron densities. The ionospheric response to this large event would have been readily observable. It caused electron densities to exceed 104 cm−3 at 30–170 km, much larger than typically observed below 100 km. It also increased the ionosphere's total electron content by half of its subsolar value and would have caused strong attenuation of radio waves. The simulated attenuation is 462 dB at 5 MHz, which demonstrates that SEP events can cause sufficient attenuation (>13 dB) to explain the lack of surface reflections in some MARSIS topside radar sounder observations. We also develop a complementary generalized approach to the study of the ionospheric effects of SEP events. This approach predicts the threshold intensities at which a SEP event is likely to produce detectable changes in electron density profiles and radio wave attenuation measurements. An event one hundred times less intense than the 29 September 1989 event produces electron densities in excess of 3000 cm−3 at 80 km, which should be measurable by radio occultation observations, and causes sufficient attenuation to eliminate MARSIS surface reflections. However, although enhancements in total electron content have been observed during SEP events, predicted enhancements in low altitude electron density were not confirmed by observations.
CitationSheel, V.; Haider, S.A.; Withers, P.; Kozarev, K.; Jun, I.; Kang, S.; Gronoff, G.; Simon Wedlund, C. (2012). Numerical simulation of the effects of a solar energetic particle event on the ionosphere of Mars. , Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, Vol. 117, Issue 5, A05312, DOI: 10.1029/2011JA017455.