37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 33 Mars' Atmosphere
Poster, Tuesday, September 6, 2005, 6:00-7:15pm, Music Recital Room

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[33.08] Measuring Mars' Atmospheric Neutral Density from 160 to 220km with the MGS Electron Reflectometer

R. Lillis, J. Engel, D. Mitchell, D. Brain, R. Lin (UC Berkeley), S. Bougher (University of Michigan), M. Acuna (NASA Goddard)

The Magnetometer/Electron Reflectometer (MAG/ER) experiment aboard Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) samples the local electron population's distribution in energy and pitch angle (angle between electron velocity and local magnetic field direction) at the mapping orbit altitude of ~400km. We develop a single-particle model of the electrons' interaction with the neutral atmosphere and motion along open field-lines connecting the solar wind to remnant crustal magnetization. Electron reflection from magnetic gradients and absorption due to inelastic collisons with atmospheric neutrals results in characteristic pitch angle (PA) distributions for open field lines. By assuming the validity of spherical harmonic expansions (Cain et al, 2003) in the strongest field regions of Mars (such as Terra Sirenum), we trace the electron paths and fit these PA distributions to our model to constrain the scale height and density of the neutral atmosphere in the region of greatest absorption, 160-220km.

We analyse almost 3 martian years of MGS mapping Orbit Data and present the first measurements of Mars' neutral density above 180km. Although the uncertainties in single measurements are quite large, averaging over many measurements over a period of weeks allows us to see long-term trends. Major results are: 1) a mean density of 0.03 kg/km3 at 160km with a month-averaged variation of ~40%, 2) a very strong annual seasonal variation, confirmed by periodogram and least-squares fit and 3) increasing seasonal density variability with distance from the equator. We see broad general agreement with predictions from Mars Thermosphere Global Circulation Model (MTGCM) simulations [Bougher et al, 2004] and with inferred densities from MGS Doppler tracking data [Tracadas et al, 2001]. Our results will help to constrain the upper boundaries of GCMs and assist orbital decay calculations for low-orbiting spacecraft, such as the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. We thank the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for funding assistance for this research.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: rlillis@ssl.berkeley.edu

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