Imaging electron density and magnetic field distributions in the magnetosphere: A new technique


  • S. Ganguly,

  • G. H. Van Bavel,

  • A. Brown


The current collection of magnetospheric observations consists almost entirely of in situ measurements at isolated spacecraft positions. A novel remote sensing technique for simultaneously imaging the plasma density N and the magnetic field B is proposed. The imaged region of the magnetosphere can be several Earth radii in extent. Simultaneous measurements of both group delay and Faraday rotation of radio waves propagating through the magnetosphere yield both total electron content (TEC) and Faraday rotation angle, which is the integral of electron density weighted by some known function of the magnetic field and ray path. These data can then be inverted to obtain estimates of the three-dimensional spatial distribution of N and B. The geometry of the ray paths determines the number of components of B that can be resolved. Simple multisatellite simulations and common data processing techniques introduce this new application of tomography: Magnetospheric TEC measurements yield a map of N, which is then combined with Faraday rotation angle measurements to produce a two-component map of B in the plane of observation. The successful tomographic reconstructions provide a straightforward illustration of the practicality of using this technique to map the magnetospheric plasma density and magnetic field in two or three dimensions. Furthermore, simultaneous images of N and B are of great topical interest to geospace science because of their direct and immediate relevance to current questions regarding magnetospheric structure and dynamics.