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A low-energy charged particle distribution imager with a compact sensor for space applications

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9 Author(s)
Knudsen, D.J. ; Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N. W., Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada ; Burchill, J.K. ; Berg, K. ; Cameron, T.
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Low-energy plasmas having temperatures of order 1 eV or less are found commonly in the ionospheres and space environments of Earth and other planets. Measuring the density, temperature, drift velocities, phase-space anisotropies, and other properties of these plasmas presents numerous challenges. Examples are distortions of particle trajectories due to spacecraft wakes, spacecraft charging, and particle gyromotion in magnetized plasmas. Furthermore, these plasmas are known to organize into structures as small as tens of meters across, traversed by spacecraft in tens of milliseconds or less. The Suprathermal Plasma Imager (SPI) was developed to address these challenges. The SPI is optimized for measurements of particles with ∼1 eV energies, and of the suprathermal extension of those populations up to several hundred eV. The SPI is sensitive to particle flux intensities of order 6×105cm-2s-1sr-1eV-1 and greater. It produces 3024-pixel images corresponding to two-dimensional (angle/energy) cuts through plasma velocity distribution functions, with an image frame rate of up to 100 s-1. The SPI has a cylindrical sensor head measuring 37.5 mm in diameter and 14 cm long, with a mass of 350 g. The relatively small size and mass of the sensor allow it to be deployed easily on a boom, outside of the spacecraft’s electrical sheath and in a region where wake perturbations are reduced. The SPI sensor head contains no electronic circuitry, but instead creates a visible image of the particle distribution with a system of dc-biased grids, microchannel plates, and a phosphor screen. The phosphor image is transferred via an imaging fiber-optic cable to an instrument box in the main spacecraft body, where it is sampled with a charge-coupled device and support electronics. Inside the sen- sor, angle/energy images of incident particle distributions are formed by a pair of concentric hemispherical grids. The incident energies Ei accessible to the analyzer lie in the range 0≤Ei≤Emax where Emax≈qΔV/3, ΔV being the potential difference between the hemispheres. For an ideal analyzer, energy resolution ΔE/E is ≤22% over most of the imaged energy range, degrading at energies below Emax/10. Angular resolution varies from 2° to 8° full width at half maximum between Emax and Emax/10. Energy and angular resolutions are degraded in the presence of a potential difference between the sensor and surrounding plasma. A 37.5-mm-diam version of the analyzer with a 0.86-mm-wide aperture has an ideal energy-dependent geometry factor of ≈5×10-4eV sr cm2 for a square detector pixel of width 0.28 mm. Laboratory testing shows degraded energy resolution compared to ideal values, due in part to particle scattering within the analyzer. The SPI was tested successfully in flight on the GEODESIC auroral sounding rocket on 26 February 2000. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.

Published in:

Review of Scientific Instruments  (Volume:74 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

Jan 2003

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