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The Martian Photoelectron Boundary as Seen by MAVEN

Abstract : Photoelectron peaks in the 20-30 eV energy range are commonly observed in the planetary atmospheres, produced by the intense photoionization from solar 30.4 nm photons. At Mars, these photoelectrons are known to escape the planet down its tail, making them tracers for the atmospheric escape. Furthermore, their presence or absence allow to define the so-called photoelectron boundary (PEB), which separates the photoelectron dominated ionosphere from the external environment. We provide here a detailed statistical analysis of the location and properties of the PEB based on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) electron and magnetic field data obtained from September 2014 to May 2016 (including 1696 PEB crossings). The PEB appears as mostly sensitive to the solar wind dynamic and crustal fields pressures. Its variable altitude thus leads to a variable wake cross section for escape (up to ∼+50%), which is important for deriving escape rates. The PEB is not always sharp and is characterized on average by the following: a magnetic field topology typical for the end of magnetic pileup region above it, more field-aligned fluxes above than below, and a clear change of the altitude slopes of both electron fluxes and total density (that appears different from the ionopause). The PEB thus appears as a transition region between two plasma and fields configurations determined by the draping topology of the interplanetary magnetic field around Mars and much influenced by the crustal field sources below, whose dynamics also impacts the estimated escape rate of ionospheric plasma.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - 5:24:19 PM
Last modification on : Monday, July 4, 2022 - 9:02:34 AM
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P. Garnier, M. Steckiewicz, C. Mazelle, S. Xu, D. Mitchell, et al.. The Martian Photoelectron Boundary as Seen by MAVEN. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2017, 122, pp.10,472-10,485. ⟨10.1002/2017JA024497⟩. ⟨insu-03676938⟩

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