Articles | Volume 27, issue 3
05 Mar 2009
 | 05 Mar 2009

Mesospheric dust and its secondary effects as observed by the ESPRIT payload

O. Havnes, L. H. Surdal, and C. R. Philbrick

Abstract. The dust detector on the ESPRIT rocket detected two extended dust/aerosol layers during the launch on 1 July 2006. The lower layer at height ~81.5–83 km coincided with a strong NLC and PMSE layer. The maximum dust charge density was ~−3.5×109 e m−3 and the dust layer was characterized by a few strong dust layers where the dust charge density at the upper edges changed by factors 2–3 over a distance of ≲10 m, while the same change at their lower edges were much more gradual. The upper edge of this layer is also sharp, with a change in the probe current from zero to IDC=−10−11 A over ~10 m, while the same change at the low edge occurs over ~500 m. The second dust layer at ~85–92 km was in the height range of a comparatively weak PMSE layer and the maximum dust charge density was ~−108 e m−3. This demonstrates that PMSE can be formed even if the ratio of the dust charge density to the electron density P=NdZd /n_e≲0.01.

In spite of the dust detector being constructed to reduce possible secondary charging effects from dust impacts, it was found that they were clearly present during the passage through both layers. The measured secondary charging effects confirm recent results that dust in the NLC and PMSE layers can be very effective in producing secondary charges with up to ~50 to 100 electron charges being rubbed off by one impacting large dust particle, if the impact angle is θi≳20–35°. This again lends support to the suggested model for NLC and PMSE dust particles (Havnes and Næsheim, 2007) as a loosely bound water-ice clump interspersed with a considerable number of sub-nanometer-sized meteoric smoke particles, possibly also contaminated with meteoric atomic species.