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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 31, issue 3
Ann. Geophys., 31, 463–471, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 31, 463–471, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Regular paper 12 Mar 2013

Regular paper | 12 Mar 2013

Thermospheric neutral temperatures derived from charge-exchange produced N2+ Meinel (1,0) rotational distributions

C. K. Mutiso, M. D. Zettergren, J. M. Hughes, and G. G. Sivjee C. K. Mutiso et al.
  • Space Physics Research Laboratory, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL, USA

Abstract. Thermalized rotational distributions of neutral and ionized N2 and O2 have long been used to determine neutral temperatures (Tn) during auroral conditions. In both bright E-region (≲150 km) auroras, and in higher-altitude auroras, spectral distributions of molecular emissions employed to determine Tn in the E-region cannot likewise be used to obtain Tn in the F-region. Nevertheless, charge-exchange reactions between high-altitude (≳130 km) species provide an exception to this situation. In particular, the charge-exchange reaction O+(2D) + N2(X) → N+2(A2Πu, ν' = 1 + O(3P) yields thermalized N2+ Meinel (1,0) emissions, which, albeit weak, can be used to derive neutral temperatures at altitudes of ~130 km and higher.

In this work, we present N2+ Meinel (1,0) rotational temperatures and brightnesses obtained at Svalbard, Norway, during various auroral conditions. We calculate Tn at thermospheric altitudes of 130–180 km from thermalized rotational populations of N2+ Meinel (1,0); these emissions are excited by soft electron (≲1 keV) impact and charge-exchange reactions. We model the contributions of the respective excitation mechanisms, and compare derived brightnesses to observations. The agreement between the two is good. Emission heights obtained from optical data, modeling, and ISR data are consistent. Obtaining thermospheric Tn from charge-exchange excited N2+ Meinel (1,0) emissions provides an additional means of remotely sensing the neutral atmosphere, although certain limiting conditions are necessary. These include precipitation of low-energy electrons, and a non-sunlit emitting layer.

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