Spectral broadening and phase scintillation measurements using interplanetary spacecraft radio links during the peak of solar cycle 23

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Abstract

[1] When an interplanetary spacecraft is in a solar superior conjunction configuration, the received radio signals are degraded by several effects that generally increase in magnitude as the angle between the spacecraft and the Sun (Sun-Earth-Probe or SEP angle) decreases as viewed by a terrestrial tracking station. During periods of quiescent solar activity, phase scintillation and spectral broadening follow well-defined trends as a function of solar impact distance (SEP angle) and link frequency. During active solar periods, the magnitudes of these effects increase above background levels predicted by the quiet period models. Several such events were observed during the solar superior conjunction of the Cassini spacecraft during the peak of solar cycle 23 in May 2000. Pronounced features in the spectral broadening data above the quiet background appear to be associated with Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and last for extended periods of time ranging from ∼30 min to ∼4 h. These features are coincident with periods of increased activity seen in the region of the spacecraft signal source on coronal white light images, and tend to be related or matched with EIT flare events and possibly long-duration flare events seen in satellite X-ray data. Several such features were captured in the May 2000 Cassini solar conjunction phase scintillation and spectral broadening data at X band (8.4 GHz) and Ka band (32 GHz) radio frequencies, and are presented here. Such characterizations are beneficial in understanding the impact of such events in future interplanetary communication scenarios during solar conjunction periods.

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