Ions of martian origin and plasma sheet in the martian magnetosphere: initial results of the TAUS experiment

Abstract

UNLIKE plasma instruments used on previous space missions to Mars, the TAUS instrument on Phobos 2 was designed so that the energy per charge and angular spectra of three species of ions could be measured separately. These species were H+ and He2+ characteristic of the solar wind, and 'heavy ions' collected in one integral channel covering the mass per charge (M/q) range 3 to infinite, which we anticipated to find predominantly in the near-martian regime. In all spacecraft orbits around Mars we found a sharp boundary, separating the shocked solar wind from the martian magnetosphere which was characterized by the absence of solar-wind-like plasma. As the plasma inside the magnetosphere, and particularly in the tail, was dominated by heavy ions with number densities orders of magnitude higher than found in the solar wind, we assumed it was mainly of martian origin. Typically, heavy ions of low tailward flow velocity were seen near the boundary of the magnetotail, whereas high-speed tailward plasma flows of such ions were detected deeper inside the tail, a region not investigated before. Near the centre of the martian magnetotail a plasma regime, comparable to the terrestrial as well as the venusian1 plasma sheet, was detected, characterized by highly supersonic tailward streams of heavy ions. The flux of planetary ions leaving Mars through its magnetotail is tentatively estimated to be of the order of a few times 1025 s-1. Such loss rates would be significant for the dissipation of the martian atmosphere on cosmological timescales.

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Rosenbauer, H., Shutte, N., Apáthy, I. et al. Ions of martian origin and plasma sheet in the martian magnetosphere: initial results of the TAUS experiment. Nature 341, 612–614 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/341612a0

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