Geophysical Research Letters

Electron impact contribution to infrared NO emissions in auroral conditions



[1] Infrared emissions from nitric oxide, other than nightglow, are observed in aurora, principally due to a chemiluminescent reaction between excited nitrogen atoms and oxygen molecules that produces vibrationally excited NO. The rates for this chemiluminescent reaction have recently been revised. Based on new measurements of electron impact vibrational excitation of NO, it has been suggested that electron impact may also be significant in producing auroral NO emissions. We show results of a detailed calculation which predicts the infrared spectrum observed in rocket measurements, using the revised chemiluminescent rates and including electron impact excitation. For emissions from the second vibrational level and above, the shape of the spectrum can be reproduced within the statistical errors of the analysis of the measurements, although there is an unexplained discrepancy in the absolute value of the emissions. The inclusion of electron impact improves the agreement of the shape of the predicted spectrum with the measurements by accounting for part of the previously unexplained peak in emissions from the first vibrational level.