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Optical Engineering

Auroral x-ray imaging from high- and low-Earth orbit
Author(s): David L. McKenzie; David J. Gorney; William L. Imhof
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Paper Abstract

Observations of bremsstrahlung x rays emitted by energetic electrons impacting the Earth's atmosphere can be used for remotely sensing the morphology, intensity, and energy spectra of electron precipitation from the magnetosphere. The utility of the technique is derived from the broad energy range of observable x rays (2 to >100 keV), the simple emission process, the large x-ray mean free path in the atmosphere, and negligible background. Two auroral x-ray imagers, developed for future spaceflights, are discussed. The Polar Ionospheric X-Ray Imaging Experiment is scheduled for launch on the NASA International Solar-Terrestrial Physics/Global Geospace Science program POLAR satellite in 1994. The POLAR orbit, with an apogee and perigee of 9 and 1.8 Re (Earth radii), respectively, affords the opportunity to image the aurora from a high altitude above the north pole continuously for several hours. The Magnetospheric Atmospheric X-Ray Imaging Experiment (MAXIE) was launched aboard the NOAA-I satellite on August 8, 1993. The 800-km polar orbit passes over both the northern and southern auroral zones every 101 mm. MAXIE will be capable of obtaining multiple images of the same auroral region during a single satellite orbit. The experimental approaches used to exploit these very different orbits for remote sensing of the Earth's auroral zones are emphasized.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 February 1994
PDF: 9 pages
Opt. Eng. 33(2) doi: 10.1117/12.155914
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 33, Issue 2
Show Author Affiliations
David L. McKenzie, The Aerospace Corp. (United States)
David J. Gorney, The Aerospace Corp. (United States)
William L. Imhof, Lockheed Palo Alto Research Lab. (United States)

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