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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 13, issue 2
Ann. Geophys., 13, 130–146, 1995
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-995-0130-z
© European Geosciences Union 1995
Ann. Geophys., 13, 130–146, 1995
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-995-0130-z
© European Geosciences Union 1995

  28 Feb 1995

28 Feb 1995

Plasma gradient effects on double-probe measurements in the magnetosphere

H. Laakso, T. L. Aggson, and R. F. Pfaff Jr. H. Laakso et al.

Abstract. The effects on double-probe electric field measurements induced by electron density and temperature gradients are investigated. We show that on some occasions such gradients may lead to marked spurious electric fields if the probes are assumed to lie at the same probe potential with respect to the plasma. The use of a proper bias current will decrease the magnitude of such an error. When the probes are near the plasma potential, the magnitude of these error signals, ∆E, can vary as ∆E ~ Te(∆ne/ne)+0.5∆Te, where Te is the electron temperature, ∆ne/ne the relative electron density variation between the two sensors, and ∆Te the electron temperature difference between the two sensors. This not only implies that the error signals will increase linearly with the density variations but also that such signatures grow with Te, i.e., such effects are 10 times larger in a 10-eV plasma than in a 1-eV plasma. This type of error is independent of the probe separation distance provided the gradient scale length is much larger than this distance. The largest errors occur when the probes are near to the plasma potential. At larger positive probe potentials with respect to the plasma potential, the error becomes smaller if the probes are biased, as is usually the case with spherical double-probe experiments in the tenuous magnetospheric plasmas. The crossing of a plasma boundary (like the plasmapause or magnetopause) yields an error signal of a single peak. During the crossing of a small structure (e.g., a double layer) the error signal appears as a bipolar signature. Our analysis shows that errors in double-probe measurements caused by plasma gradients are not significant at large scale (»1 km) plasma boundaries, and may only be important in cases where small-scale (<1 km), internal gradient structures exist. Bias currents tailored for each plasma parameter regime (i.e., variable bias current) would o1q1improve the double-probe response to gradient effects considerably.

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