2-7 June 2019
Simon Fraser University
America/Vancouver timezone
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About the definition of a "local" temperature around a spacecraft in the ionosphere

4 Jun 2019, 11:15
SCP 8445.2 (Simon Fraser University)

SCP 8445.2

Simon Fraser University

Oral (Non-Student) / Orale (non-étudiant(e)) Plasma Physics / Physique des plasmas (DPP) T2-2 Plasmas at Surfaces (DPP) | Plasmas sur des surfaces (DPP)


Dr Roger Godard (Royal Military College of Canada)


During the 1970's a hot controversy emerged between in-situ measurements of the electron temperature in the ionosphere and ground measurements by incoherent backscatter radars. We suggest a possible explanation to this controversy. We define the ``local'' temperature of ionized species by the variance of the square root of the energy, and here by:
$$ \frac{3}{2} n_\infty kT(\mathbf{r}) = \!\! \int_{(-2q\phi(\mathbf{r})/m)^{1/2}}^{+\infty} \!\! \left( q \phi(\mathbf{r})+\frac{1}{2} mv^2 \right) \left( \frac{m}{2\pi kT} \right)^{3/2} e^{-\left[ q\phi(\mathbf{r})+\frac{1}{2} mv^2\right] /kT(\mathbf{r})} \,\mathrm{d}^3\mathbf{v} . $$ Here $n_\infty$ is the ambient density of the ionized gas, $k$ the Boltzmann constant, $T$ the temperature, $q$ the charge, $\phi$ the electric potential at a point $\mathbf{r}$ and $m$ is the mass. For repelled species, this equation has an analytical solution, and we obtain: $$\frac{3}{2}kT(\mathbf{r}) = e^{-q\phi(\mathbf{r})/kT(\mathbf{r})} \left[ q\phi(\mathbf{r})+\frac{3}{2}kT(\mathbf{r}) \right] ,$$ with the conditions: $$\lim_{\mathbf{r}\to+\infty} \phi(\mathbf{r}) = 0;\ \ \lim_{\mathbf{r}\to+\infty} T(\mathbf{r}) = T_\infty;\ \ \lim_{\mathbf{r}\to+\infty} n(\mathbf{r}) = n_\infty .$$ If the electric potential vanishes, the local temperatures of ionized species go towards their ambient temperatures. The theoretical implication is that the distribution function $f(E,T(\mathbf{r}))$ is not a constant along a trajectory in the phase space, and that the Vlasov equation is violated. Like Laframboise and Parker (1973), we shall consider an ionized gas without collisions and the ideal case of a potential well with a spherical symmetry, but there is no physical body. We define the number density as: $$ n = \int f\,\mathrm{d}^3\mathbf{v} = n_\infty \left( \frac{m}{2\pi kT(r)} \right)^{\!\!3/2} \!\! \exp\left( \frac{-q\phi(r)}{kT(r)} \right) \times \!\!\!\! \int_{(-2q\phi(r)/m)^{1/2}}^{+\infty} \!\!\!\! e^{-mv^2/2kT(r)}\ 4\pi v^2 \,\mathrm{d} v . $$ For repelled species; we generalize Boltzmann's formula: $$ n(r) = n_\infty \exp\left[ \frac{-q\phi(r)}{kT(\phi(r),r)} \right] . $$ We now calculate particles fluxes for attracted and repelled species. This will be a generalisation of Laframboise and Parker's (1973) formulas: $$ J = \int fv_r\,\mathrm{d}^3\mathbf{v} = J_0 \left( 1 - \frac{q\phi(a)}{kT(\phi(a),a)} \right) , $$ where $J_0$ is the thermal flux and $a$ the radius of a spherical probe. For the repelled species, we have: $$ J = J_0 \exp \left[ \frac{-q\phi(a)}{kT(\phi(a),a)} \right] . $$

In other words, the current due to repelled species is no longer an exponential! Our results also imply a modification of the PIC simulation methods. Because the temperature is no longer considered as a parameter but as a variable.


Laframboise, J.G. and Parker L.W. (1973), {\it The Physics of Fluids}, p. 629.

Primary author

Dr Roger Godard (Royal Military College of Canada)

Presentation Materials