Analysis of ionospheric sounding data from Mars Express

Since December 2003 Mars Express, a spacecraft of the European Space Agency, orbits our red neighbour planet Mars. Besides six other instruments it has on board MARSIS, an especially designed low frequency radar instrument. The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding is capable of looking beneath the planet’s surface as well as of probing its ionosphere. Since it started operating in June 2005 now for the first time an ionospheric sounding dataset has been released by the principal investigator of the instrument and was published in June 2008 on ESA’s Planetary Science Archive. To prepare and support the analysis of this promising new dataset by research groups all over the world it was the aim of this work to investigate the methods of analysis and to develop a visualization and analysis software tool. This report gives an introduction to the concept of ionospheric sounding explaining in particular how the MARSIS instrument operates. An overview of volume, structure and contents of the released dataset is presented. The simulation of the data for ionosphere models is discussed in detail and it is shown how certain features in the data can be interpreted with the help of such simulations. Two methods to obtain the ionospheric structure from the data in form of electron density profiles are studied and their implementation, advantages and limitations are pointed out. Finally the new visualization and analysis software is introduced. Its key features and functions are explained.

Author: Bauer, Johannes

Source: Luleå University of Technology

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