The photoelectron peak at 22–27 eV, a distinctive feature of the energetic electron distribution in the dayside Martian ionosphere, is a useful diagnostic of solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and X-ray ionization as well as of large-scale transport along magnetic field lines. In this work, we analyze the pitch angle distribution (PAD) of energetic electrons at 22–27 eV measured during several representative Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbits, based on the electron spectra gathered by MAVEN’s Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) instrument. On the dayside, most photoelectron spectra show an isotropic PAD as is expected from production via solar EUV/X-ray ionization. The photoelectron spectra occasionally observed on the nightside show instead a strongly anisotropic PAD, indicative of cross-terminator transport along ambient magnetic field lines. This would in turn predict the presence of dayside photoelectrons, also with a strongly anisotropic PAD, which was indeed revealed in SWEA data. Comparison with magnetic field measurements made by the MAVEN Magnetometer suggests that on average the photoelectrons with anisotropic PAD stream away from Mars on the dayside and towards Mars on the nightside, further supporting the scenario of day-to-night transport. On both sides, anisotropic photoelectrons tend to be observed above the photoelectron exobase at ~160 km where photoelectron transport dominates over local production and energy degradation.
An important population of the dayside Martian ionosphere are photoelectrons that are produced by solar Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray ionization of atmospheric neutrals. A typical photoelectron energy spectrum is characterized by a distinctive peak near 27 eV related to the strong solar HeII emission line at 30.4 nm, and an additional peak near 500 eV related to O Auger ionization. In this study, the extensive measurements made by the Solar Wind Electron Analyzer on board the recent Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft are analyzed and found to verify the scenario that Martian ionosphere photoelectrons are driven by solar radiation. We report that the photoelectron intensities at the centers of both peaks increase steadily with increasing solar ionizing flux below 90 nm and that the observed solar cycle variation is substantially more prominent near the O Auger peak than near the HeII peak. The latter observation is clearly driven by a larger variability in solar irradiance at shorter wavelengths. When the solar ionizing flux increases from 1 mW·m-2 to 2.5 mW·m-2, the photoelectron intensity increases by a factor of 3.2 at the HeII peak and by a much larger factor of 10.5 at the O Auger peak, both within the optically thin regions of the Martian atmosphere.