Explorer 10 plasma measurements


  • A. Bonetti,

  • H. S. Bridge,

  • A. J. Lazarus,

  • B. Rossi,

  • F. Scherb


Plasma measurements were made with a detector aboard the Explorer 10 satellite, launched on a highly elongated elliptical trajectory with the line of apsides about 33° to the antisolar direction. Magnetic field measurements were also carried out on Explorer 10 by the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA. A plasma moving with a velocity of about 300 km sec−1 was first observed when the satellite reached a distance of about 22 earth radii. During the rest of the observations (which terminated about 40 hours later, at a distance of 42 earth radius, periods in which substantial plasma fluxes were recorded alternated with shorter periods in which the plasma flux was below or just above the detection limit. There was a striking correlation between the plasma flux and the magnetic field: in the absence of plasma the magnetic field direction was nearly radial from the earth, whereas in the presence of plasma, the field was irregular and generally formed large angles with the earth-satellite direction. The plasma probe did not provide accurate information on the direction of the plasma flow, but placed the direction within a ‘window’ of about 20° by 80°. This window includes the direction pointing radially away from the sun. The flux densities of the positive ions (presumably protons) corresponding to the observed currents were of the order of a few times 108 cm−2 sec−1. They fluctuated over a range of about a factor of 2 during the periods when plasma was observed.