Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

DMSP F8 observations of the mid-latitude and low-latitude topside ionosphere near solar minimum


  • M. E. Greenspan,

  • W. J. Burke,

  • F. J. Rich,

  • W. J. Hughes,

  • R. A. Heelis


The retarding potential analyzer on the DMSP F8 satellite measured ion density, composition, temperature, and ram flow velocity at 840-km altitude near the dawn and dusk meridians close to solar minimum. Nine days of data were selected for study to represent the summer and winter solstices and the autumnal equinox under quiet, moderately active, and disturbed geomagnetic conditions. The observations revealed extensive regions of light-ion dominance along both the dawn and dusk legs of the DMSP F8 orbit. These regions showed seasonal, longitudinal, and geomagnetic control, with light ions commonly predominating in places where the subsatellite ionosphere was relatively cold. Field-aligned plasma flows also were detected. In the morning, ions flowed toward the equator from both sides. In the evening, DMSP F8 detected flows that either diverged away from the equator or were directed toward the northern hemisphere. The effects of diurnal variations in plasma pressure gradients in the ionosphere and plasmasphere, momentum coupling between neutral winds and ions at the feet of field lines, and E × B drifts qualitatively explain most features of these composition and velocity measurements.