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Electric Mars: A large trans-terminator electric potential drop on closed magnetic field lines above Utopia Planitia

Abstract : Parallel electric fields and their associated electric potential structures play a crucial role in ionospheric-magnetospheric interactions at any planet. Although there is abundant evidence that parallel electric fields play key roles in Martian ionospheric outflow and auroral electron acceleration, the fields themselves are challenging to directly measure due to their relatively weak nature. Using measurements by the Solar Wind Electron Analyzer instrument aboard the NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) Mars Scout, we present the discovery and measurement of a substantial (ΦMars=7.7 ± 0.6 V) parallel electric potential drop on closed magnetic field lines spanning the terminator from day to night above the great impact basin of Utopia Planitia, a region largely free of crustal magnetic fields. A survey of the previous 26 orbits passing over a range of longitudes revealed similar signatures on seven orbits, with a mean potential drop (ΦMars) of 10.9 ± 0.8 V, suggestive that although trans-terminator electric fields of comparable strength are not ubiquitous, they may be common, at least at these northerly latitudes.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - 4:03:28 PM
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Glyn Collinson, David Mitchell, Shaosui Xu, Alex Glocer, Joseph Grebowsky, et al.. Electric Mars: A large trans-terminator electric potential drop on closed magnetic field lines above Utopia Planitia. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2017, 122, pp.2260-2271. ⟨10.1002/2016JA023589⟩. ⟨insu-03677077⟩

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