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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 29, issue 3
Ann. Geophys., 29, 583–590, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 29, 583–590, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  25 Mar 2011

25 Mar 2011

Possible interaction between thermal electrons and vibrationally excited N2 in the lower E-region

K.-I. Oyama1, M. Shimoyama2, J. Y. Liu3, and C. Z. Cheng1 K.-I. Oyama et al.
  • 1Plasma and Space Science Center, National Cheng Kung University, No.1 Ta-Hshue Rd, Tainan, Taiwan
  • 2Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Sagamihara, Japan
  • 3National Central University, Jhongda-Rd, ChungLi, Taiwan

Abstract. As one of the tasks to find the energy source(s) of thermal electrons, which elevate(s) electron temperature higher than neutral temperature in the lower ionosphere E-region, energy distribution function of thermal electron was measured with a sounding rocket at the heights of 93–131 km by the applying second harmonic method.

The energy distribution function showed a clear hump at the energy of ~0.4 eV. In order to find the reason of the hump, we conducted laboratory experiment. We studied difference of the energy distribution functions of electrons in thermal energy range, which were measured with and without EUV radiation to plasma of N2/Ar and N2/O2 gas mixture respectively. For N2/Ar gas mixture plasma, the hump is not clearly identified in the energy distribution of thermal electrons. On the other hand for N2/O2 gas mixture, which contains vibrationally excited N2, a clear hump is found when irradiated by EUV.

The laboratory experiment seems to suggest that the hump is produced as a result of interaction between vibrationally excited N2 and thermal electrons, and this interaction is the most probable heating source for the electrons of thermal energy range in the lower E-region. It is also suggested that energy distribution of the electrons in high energy part may not be Maxwellian, and DC probe measures the electrons which are non Maxwellian, and therefore "electron temperature" is calculated higher.

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