How to determine the thermal electron density and the magnetic field strength from the Cluster/Whisper observations around the Earth
Abstract. The Wave Experiment Consortium, WEC, is a highly integrated package of five instruments used to study the plasma environment around the Earth. One of these instruments, the Waves of HIgh frequency and Sounder for Probing of Electron density by Relaxation, Whisper, aims at the thermal electron density evaluation and natural wave monitoring in the 4–83 kHz frequency range. In its active working mode, which is our primarily concern here, the Whisper instrument transmits a short wave train at a swept frequency and receives echoes after a delay. Incidentally, it behaves like a classical ground-based ionosonde. Natural modes of oscillations may thus be excited in the surrounding medium. This means that with suitable interpretations, the Whisper sounding technique becomes a powerful tool for plasma diagnosis. By taking into account the characteristic frequencies of the magnetoplasmas encountered by the Cluster spacecraft, it is indeed possible to reliably and accurately determine the electron density and, to a lesser degree, the magnetic field strength from the Whisper electric field measurements. Due to the predominantly electrostatic nature of the waves that are excited, observations of resonances may also lead to information on the electron velocity distribution functions. The existence of a hot population may indeed be revealed and the hot to cold density ratio can be estimated.
Key words. Magnetospheric physics (plasma waves and instabilities). Space plasma physics (active perturbation experiments; instruments and techniques)