Application of the coded long-pulse technique to plasma line studies of the ionosphere



Recently, the coded long-pulse radar technique was tested at Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico using photoelectron-enhanced plasma lines in the daytime ionosphere. The technique immediately proved to be a powerful diagnostic tool for studying natural ionospheric phenomena. Our initial observations indicate that extremely accurate measurements of absolute electron density (0.01 to 0.03% error bars) can be achieved with an altitude resolution of 150 m and a temporal resolution of ∼2 s. In addition, the technique provides information about electron density structure within a 150-m altitude cell and yields parameters from which the energy spectrum of suprathermal electrons (≥ 5 eV) can be deduced. Our earliest measurements are used to illustrate applications of the coded long-pulse technique to several aeronomic/ionospheric areas of current interest. These include studies of neutral wave motions in the lower thermosphere, measurements of ion composition in the F1 region/upper ionosphere, and investigations of electron-gas thermal balance and photoelectron energy loss processes. The technique can be utilized to examine irregularity formation in the F region, probe electron acceleration processes in ionospheric modification experiments, verify the magnetic field dependence of Langmuir wave damping, and more generally test higher order corrections suggested for the Langmuir dispersion relation. It is anticipated that the latter tests will facilitate measurements of ionospheric currents.