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Detection of He+ layering in the topside ionosphere over Arecibo during equinox solar minimum conditions



We describe recent developments in and results from topside incoherent scatter radar (ISR) measurements at Arecibo, PR, emphasizing helium ion measurements. Recent improvements in the data taking modes and the data processing permit isolation of the concentrations of oxygen, helium and hydrogen ions between the F region peak and 2000 km with about 10 minute time resolution. The need for the three ion non-linear least squares fits is justified by use of the goodness of fit; a two ion fit is shown to be unacceptable. The new measurements are optimized for the rapid height variations in the solar minimum nighttime ionosphere by replacing the traditional 1 ms pulse with a 500 µs pulse. We show results from one day of a five day experiment during the Spring of 1994. For these equinox solar minimum conditions, the altitude distribution of the helium ions usually has a maximum near the O+ to H+ transition altitude (ht), forming a distinct layer, most noticeable during the night. The maximum helium ion concentrations tend to be quite low, 2 or 3 × 10³ cm−3, or 10–20% of the topside plasma at the peak of the He+ layer. The transition altitude, ht, varies from about 1200 km to 1400 km during the day to near 500 km at night, and the He+ layer follows this altitude variation. Finally we show that the location of the layer near ht and its intensification during the night can be explained using ambipolar diffusion equations.

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