Articles | Volume 34, issue 9
Regular paper
16 Sep 2016
Regular paper |  | 16 Sep 2016

On determining fluxgate magnetometer spin axis offsets from mirror mode observations

Ferdinand Plaschke and Yasuhito Narita

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.

Short summary
Spacecraft-mounted magnetic field instruments (magnetometers) need to be routinely calibrated. This involves determining the magnetometer outputs in vanishing ambient magnetic fields, the so-called offsets. We introduce and test a new method to determine these offsets with high accuracy, the mirror mode method, which is complementary to existing methods. The mirror mode method should be highly beneficial to current and future magnetic field observations near Earth, other planets, and comets.