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ISSN  2096-3955

CN  10-1502/P

Citation: Wu, X. S., Cui, J., Yu, J., Liu, L. J., and Zhou, Z. J. (2019). Photoelectron balance in the dayside Martian upper atmosphere. Earth Planet. Phys., 3(5), 373–379.doi: 10.26464/epp2019038

2019, 3(5): 373-379. doi: 10.26464/epp2019038


Photoelectron balance in the dayside Martian upper atmosphere


National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China


School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai Guangdong 519082, China


Chinese Academy of Sciences Center for Excellence in Comparative Planetology, Hefei 230026, China


Space Science Institute, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China

Corresponding author: Jun Cui,

Received Date: 2019-06-04
Web Publishing Date: 2019-09-01

Photoelectrons are produced by solar Extreme Ultraviolet radiation and contribute significantly to the local ionization and heat balances in planetary upper atmospheres. When the effect of transport is negligible, the photoelectron energy distribution is controlled by a balance between local production and loss, a condition usually referred to as local energy degradation. In this study, we examine such a condition for photoelectrons near Mars, with the aid of a multi-instrument Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution data set gathered over the inbound portions of a representative dayside MAVEN orbit. Various photoelectron production and loss processes considered here include primary and secondary ionization, inelastic collisions with atmospheric neutrals associated with both excitation and ionization, as well as Coulomb collisions with ionospheric thermal electrons. Our calculations indicate that photoelectron production occurs mainly via primary ionization and degradation from higher energy states during inelastic collisions; photoelectron loss appears to occur almost exclusively via degradation towards lower energy states via inelastic collisions above 10 eV, but the effect of Coulomb collisions becomes important at lower energies. Over the energy range of 30–55 eV (chosen to reduce the influence of the uncertainty in spacecraft charging), we find that the condition of local energy degradation is very well satisfied for dayside photoelectrons from 160 to 250 km. No evidence of photoelectron transport is present over this energy range.

Key words: Mars; Photoelectron; MAVEN

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Photoelectron balance in the dayside Martian upper atmosphere

XiaoShu Wu, Jun Cui, Jiang Yu, LiJuan Liu, ZhenJun Zhou