Studies of planetary atmospheres: 1. The distribution of electrons and ions in the Earth's exosphere


  • J. J. Angerami,

  • J. O. Thomas


The factors which govern the distribution of electrons and ions in a planet's exosphere under diffusive equilibrium are discussed. The theory takes into account the effect of the electric field that arises from charge separation, the centrifugal force arising from the rotation of the planet, and the effect of the planet's gravitational field. It is assumed that the charged particles are constrained to move only along the direction of the planet's magnetic lines of force. The modifications that result in the electron and ion distributions when a temperature variation is assumed along a line of force are also considered. The results predicted by the theory are compared with actual experimental observations of the electron density distribution in the earth's exospheric plasma which have been obtained in recent years from whistler data and from topside ionograms made by the Alouette satellite.