The Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) is one of the three scientific instruments onboard the Tianwen-1 orbiter to investigate the Martian space environment. During Tianwen-1’s transfer orbit to Mars, the MINPA was switched on to measure the solar wind ions. Here, we present the first results of the MINPA observations in the solar wind. During cruise, nearly half of the MINPA ion field-of-view (FOV) was blocked by the lander capsule; thus only the solar-wind ions with azimuthal speeds pointing towards the unblocked FOV sectors could be detected. We perform a detailed comparison of the MINPA’s solar wind observations with data from Earth-based missions when MINPA reached its count-rate peak, finding a general consistency of the ion moments between them. The blocking effect due to the lander is evaluated quantitatively under varying solar-wind velocity conditions. Despite the blocking effect, the MINPA’s solar wind measurements during the transfer orbit suggest a good performance.
The Venusian dayside ionosphere, similar to other planetary ionospheres, is produced primarily by ionization of its neutral upper atmosphere due to solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation. It has become clear that the expansion of the ionosphere may be strongly controlled by the EUV level, as exhibited in data collected by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO) during one solar cycle (1978–1992). However, the EUV-dependence of the Venusian dayside ionopause altitude, which defines the outer boundary of the ionosphere, remains obscure because the PVO crossed the dayside ionopause only during the solar maximum; its periapsis lifted too high during the solar minimum. Recently, during the period 2006–2014, which included the longest and quietest solar minimum of the past several decades, Venus Express (VEX) provided measurements of the photoelectron boundary (PEB) over the northern high-latitude region. Since the photoelectron boundary is closely related to the ionopause, we have an opportunity to analyze the EUV effect on the dayside ionopause by combining PVO and VEX observations. We have evaluated and then reduced the orbit bias effect in data from both PVO and VEX, and then used the results to derive a relationship between solar EUV level and the dayside ionopause altitude. We find that the dayside ionopause altitude increases as the solar EUV level increases, which is consistent with theoretical expectations.
Proton cyclotron waves (PCWs) can be generated by ion pickup of Martian exospheric particles in the solar wind. The solar wind ion pickup process is highly dependent on the “IMF cone angle” — the angle between the solar wind velocity and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which also plays an important role in the generation of PCWs. Using data from 2.15 Martian years of magnetic field measurements collected by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, we have identified 3307 upstream PCW events. Their event number distribution decreases exponentially with their duration. A statistical investigation of the effects of IMF cone angle on the amplitudes and occurrence rates of PCWs reveals a slight tendency of PCWs’ amplitudes to decrease with increasing IMF cone angle. The relationship between the amplitude and IMF cone angle is weak, with a correlation coefficient r = –0.3. We also investigated the influence of IMF cone angle on the occurrence rate of PCWs and found that their occurrence rate is particularly high for intermediate IMF cone angles (~18°–42°) even though highly oblique IMF orientation occurs most frequently in the upstream region of the Martian bow shock. We also conclude that these variabilities are not artefacts of temporal coverage biases in MAVEN sampling. Our results demonstrate that whereas IMF cone angle strongly influences the occurrence of PCWs, IMF cone angle may also weakly modulate their amplitudes in the upstream region of Mars.
Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global dipolar magnetic field but is dominated by patches of a remnant crustal magnetic field. In 2021, the Chinese Mars Rover will land on the surface of Mars and measure the surface magnetic field along a moving path within the possible landing region of 20°W–50°W, 20°N–30°N. One scientific target of the Rover is to monitor the variation in surface remnant magnetic fields and reveal the source of the ionospheric current. An accurate local crustal field model is thus considered necessary as a field reference. Here we establish a local crust field model for the candidate landing site based on the joint magnetic field data set from Mars Global Explorer (MGS) and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) data combined. The model is composed of 1,296 dipoles, which are set on three layers but at different buried depths. The application of the dipole model to the joint data set allowed us to calculate the optimal parameters of their dipoles. The calculated results demonstrate that our model has less fitting error than two other state-of-the art global crustal field models, which would indicate a more reasonable assessment of the surface crustal field from our model.
The strength and configuration of the geomagnetic field control the average shape of the magnetosphere. The pure dipole assumption and the virtual dipole moment (VDM), determined by individual records, have been widely adopted to evaluate the strength of the geomagnetic field in geological time. However, such an assumption might not be valid during geomagnetic transitions, such as reversals and excursions. The traditional spherical harmonic modeling of the geomagnetic field could be difficult to implement because accurate global records are lacking. Here, we report that an empirical relationship exists between the ratio of the VDM to the true axial dipole moment (VDM/ADM) and the ratio of the power of the axial dipole to that of the non-axial dipole (AD/NAD) based on a new method utilizing globally distributed inclination records. The root mean square global deviation of inclination (RMSΔI) to the standard inclination distribution of the AD was fitted to the AD/NAD with a cubic polynomial by utilizing a large number of geodynamo simulations. Tests with geomagnetic field models showed that the AD/NAD derived from the RMSΔI agreed well with that calculated by using the Gauss coefficients, and the estimated ADM was consistent with the true value. Finally, the application of volcanic records during the Laschamp excursion showed the VDM might overestimate the ADM by a factor of 3. Our new method will be useful in future studies that characterize the configuration of the geomagnetic field and the strength of the axial dipole.
The planet Earth is an integrated system, in which its multi-spheres are coupled, from the space to the inner core. Whether the space environment in short to long terms has been controlled by the earth’s interior process is contentious. In the past several decades, space weather and space climate have been extensively studied based on either observation data measured directly by man-made instruments or ancient data inferred indirectly from some historical medium of past thousands of years. The acquired knowledge greatly helps us to understand the dynamic processes in the space environment of modern Earth, which has a strong magnetic dipole and an oxygen-rich atmosphere. However, no data is available for ancient space weather and climate (>5 ka). Here, we propose to take the advantage of " space-diversity” to build a " generalized planetary space family”, to reconcile the ancient space environment evolution of planet Earth from modern observations of other planets in our solar system. Such a method could also in turn give us a valuable insight into other planets’ evolution.
The present issue of Earth and Planetary Physics is dedicated to the near-space neutral and plasma environments of Mars. The issue includes nine papers that present new results on the properties of the Martian exosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere, from both observational and modeling points of view. Due to the similarity between the two objects, the issue also includes two additional papers on the near-Venus plasma environment.