Spatial Resolution of Equatorial Plasma Depletions Using Variable-Range Time-Delay Integration
Napiecek, Andrew Webster
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Previous plasma imaging missions have used time-delay integration techniques that correct for uniform motion blur during integration. This was due to the assumed constant range-to-target of each pixel in the observed scene. ICON's low orbital altitude and twelve second integration time create non-uniform motion blur across the observed scene and necessitate a novel variable-range time-delay integration (TDI) algorithm be used to spatially resolve the two-dimensional images. The variable-range TDI algorithm corrects for each pixel moving at a different angular rate throughout image integration and transforms each raw image onto a surface where the spacecraft is moving at a constant angular rate with respect to every pixel in the image. Then as the raw images are co-added together the non-uniform motion of the observed scene is accounted for and will not geographically distort the final images, or any features seen within them. Through simulation using output from the SAMI3 model during plasma depletion formation it was determined that the structuring and gradients of plasma depletions can be recovered using this technique. Additionally, the effects of depletion width, solar activity level, and misalignment of the field-of-view with the local magnetic field were investigated. The variable-range TDI technique is able to recover the overall shape and depth of depletion of the depletions in all cases, however the determination of gradients observed at depletion walls is significantly degraded for very narrow plasma depletions and during periods of low solar activity. All simulated model conditions were shown to be representative of current ionospheric conditions.
General Audience Abstract
Equatorial spread-F, also termed plasma bubbles, is a phenomenon that occurs in the equatorial region of Earth’s ionosphere, the charged region of Earth’s atmosphere. Plumes of less dense plasma, the charged material of the Ionosphere, rise through regions of higher density plasma. This causes disturbances to radio signals that travel through this region, which can lead to GPS range errors or loss of signal. ICON is a NASA Explorer mission aimed at, in part, understanding the sources of variability in the ionosphere. One instrument onboard ICON to accomplish this goal is the FarUltraviolet Imager which images airglow in the far-ultraviolet range. During nighttime, the FUV imager can observe plasma bubbles to study the instability and the mechanisms that produce it. This thesis looks at the ability of the variable-range time-delay integration (TDI) algorithm, used to produce images from ICON’s Farultraviolet imager, to spatially resolve the structure and gradients of observed plasma bubbles. However, due to the viewing geometry of ICON’s FUV imager, each pixel across the observed scene experiences a different angular rate of motion blur. The variable-range TDI algorithm removes this non-uniform motion blur by transforming each raw image onto a surface where the spacecraft moves at a constant angular rate with respect to every pixel in the image. Then raw images are integrated together such that the observed scene is not geographically distorted. It was concluded that the TDI process is able to spatially resolve a wide variety of plasma bubbles under various ionospheric conditions and imager configurations.
- Masters Theses