Plasma waves and field-aligned currents in the Venus plasma mantle

Robert J. Strangeway and Christopher T. Russell

Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California at Los Angeles

J. Geophys. Res., 101, 17,313-17,324, 1996
(Received October 30, 1995; revised March 15, 1996; accepted March 21, 1996)
Copyright 1996 by the American Geophysical Union.
Paper number 96JA00927.


      Plasma waves, observed above the dayside Venus ionosphere by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO) plasma wave instrument, have been attributed to whistler mode waves, lower hybrid waves, or ion acoustic waves. In order to clarify the nature of the waves, we have performed both case study and statistical analyses of the plasma wave and magnetic field data. We find that the plasma wave data are well ordered by altitude with respect to the location where the PVO Langmuir probe, or orbiter electron temperature probe (OETP), measures a density of 100 cm, known as the OETP ionopause. The dominant signature in the wave data appears to be a change in the instrument noise level because of changes in the plasma Debye length. However, there is a burst of wave activity near the OETP ionopause. Also, we find that there is a rotation in the magnetic field at or near this location. By casting the magnetic field data into a coordinate system ordered by the presumed magnetosheath flow, we find that the rotation of the field tends to orient the field in a more flow-aligned direction at lower altitudes. We attribute this to mass loading at lower altitudes. We further suggest that the field-aligned current associated with the field rotation corresponds to a shear Alfvén wave standing in the magnetosheath flow. The field-aligned currents are present because of boundary conditions imposed on the flow, and it is not clear if the waves are actually associated with the field-aligned currents or are simply coincidental. Since the waves are observed at the OETP ionopause, further progress in understanding these waves will be made though determining what underlying plasma structure, if any, is related to the OETP ionopause, which is defined by a specific instrument threshold. Nevertheless, our study confirms that the wave activity, field-aligned currents, and OETP ionopause all occur within the plasma mantle above the ionosphere. As such, the plasma waves are not an energy source for the dayside ionosphere.


      1. Introduction
      2. OETP Ionopause
      3. Flow-Aligned Coordinates
      4. Wave Occurrence Statistics
      5. Field Rotation at the OETP Ionopause
      6. Conclusions
      Figure Captions

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