Density depletions at the 10-m scale induced by the Arecibo heater


  • M. C. Kelley,

  • T. L. Arce,

  • J. Salowey,

  • M. Sulzer,

  • W. T. Armstrong,

  • M. Carter,

  • L. Duncan


In June 1992 a NASA sponsored sounding rocket, was flown through the Arecibo heater beam to study the structure of the heated volume. The rocket carried an instrument payload and traversed the 5.1-MHz reflection height at 268.5 km. Data from the plasma density probe are presented in this paper. The rocket passed through several regions of disturbed plasma both above and below the reflection level. In these regions, over 180 deep filamentary density depletions were detected. Measured perpendicular to the magnetic field, these depletions or filaments have a mean width at half maximum of 7 m which is roughly equal to twice the ion gyroradius (O+) and a mean depletion depth of 6%. The ratio of parallel to perpendicular scale for these structures exceeds 20,000, and the spacing between the filaments is around 15 m. A power spectrum of the rocket data clearly shows the spectral content of the filaments and also reveals peaks at longer wavelengths which we interpret as the spacing between the bunches and between sets of filaments within a given bunch. We believe that previous scintillation and satellite measurements emphasized these longer wavelengths. The power spectrum measured by the rocket instrumentation falls off as k−4 for wavenumber k larger than 0.4/m and remains above the system noise for structure down to 1 m. It is clear that VHF backscatter from these structures can be explained by our data, as can many features of heater-related, field-aligned irregularities found in the literature.