What is it about?

The magnetic field around Earth traps electrons and protons ejected from the Sun, where they can gain energy in the near-Earth region. The particles can enter Earth's atmosphere in a process called energetic particle precipitation (EPP) where they go on to change the chemistry of the upper atmosphere, among other effects. The high energy electrons produce X-rays when they interact with the atmosphere which can be observed from spacecraft. This work describes the development of an X-ray camera to be mounted on a spacecraft to measure where, when, and how many electrons are entering the atmosphere.

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Why is it important?

This work describes a new instrument that will characterize the higher energy component of energetic particle precipitation, which is vital to understand the overall behavior of the Sun-Earth system, near-Earth space environment, and Earth's atmosphere. Without constraining this component of the energy input into the atmosphere, atmospheric models have difficulty producing realistic results in the upper and middle atmosphere. We also learn more about the physics of the near-Earth space environment from these measurements.

Perspectives

This X-ray camera implements a technology new to this field, coded aperture X-ray optics, which have a variety of applications in medium and high energy physics. This technology will enable better observations of the spatial scales of energetic particle precipitation, which will go on to improve our scientific understanding of the physics processes of the near-Earth space environment.

Grant Berland

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This page is a summary of: The atmospheric X-ray imaging spectrometer (AXIS) instrument: Quantifying energetic particle precipitation through bremsstrahlung X-ray imaging, Review of Scientific Instruments, February 2023, American Institute of Physics, DOI: 10.1063/5.0127272.
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