Articles | Volume 25, issue 3
29 Mar 2007
 | 29 Mar 2007

On the secondary charging effects and structure of mesospheric dust particles impacting on rocket probes

O. Havnes and L. I. Næsheim

Abstract. The dust probe DUSTY, first launched during the summer of 1994 (flights ECT–02 and ECT–07) from Andøya Rocket Range, northern Norway, was the first probe to unambiguously detect heavy charged mesospheric aerosols, from hereon referred to as dust. In ECT–02 the probe detected negatively charged dust particles in the height interval of 83 to 88.5 km. In this flight, the lower grid in the detector (Grid 2) measures both positive and negative currents in various regions, and we find that the relationship between the current measurements of Grid 2 and the bottom plate can only be explained by influence from secondary charge production on Grid 2. In ECT–07, which had a large coning, positive currents reaching the top grid of the probe were interpreted as due to the impact of positively charged dust particles. We have now reanalyzed the data from ECT–07 and arrived at the conclusion that the measured positive currents to this grid must have been mainly due to secondary charging effects from the impacting dust particles. The grid consists of a set of parallel wires crossed with an identical set of wires on top of it, and we find that if the observed currents were created from the direct impact of charged dust particles, then they should be very weakly modulated at four times the rocket spin rate ωR. Observations show, however, that the observed currents are strongly modulated at 2ωR. We cannot reproduce the observed large modulations of the impact currents in the dust layer if the currents are due only to the transfer of the charges on the impacted dust particles. Based on the results of recent ice cluster impact secondary charging experiments by Tomsic (2003), which found that a small fraction of the ice clusters, when impacting with nearly grazing incidence, carried away one negative charge −1e, we have arrived at the conclusion that similar, but significantly more effective, charging effects must be predominantly responsible for the positive currents measured by the top grid in ECT–07 and their large rotational modulation at 2ωR.

Since the secondary effect is dependent on the size of the impacting dust, this opens up for the possibility of mapping the relative dust sizes throughout a dust layer by comparing the observed direct and secondary currents.