On determining fluxgate magnetometer spin axis offsets from mirror mode observations
Abstract. In-flight calibration of fluxgate magnetometers that are mounted on spacecraft involves finding their outputs in vanishing ambient fields, the so-called magnetometer offsets. If the spacecraft is spin-stabilized, then the spin plane components of these offsets can be relatively easily determined, as they modify the spin tone content in the de-spun magnetic field data. The spin axis offset, however, is more difficult to determine. Therefore, usually Alfvénic fluctuations in the solar wind are used. We propose a novel method to determine the spin axis offset: the mirror mode method. The method is based on the assumption that mirror mode fluctuations are nearly compressible such that the maximum variance direction is aligned to the mean magnetic field. Mirror mode fluctuations are typically found in the Earth's magnetosheath region. We introduce the method and provide a first estimate of its accuracy based on magnetosheath observations by the THEMIS-C spacecraft. We find that 20 h of magnetosheath measurements may already be sufficient to obtain high-accuracy spin axis offsets with uncertainties on the order of a few tenths of a nanotesla, if offset stability can be assumed.