Date of Award
Understanding neutral masses in the ionosphere, especially in the E- and D-regions, is a very challenging endeavor. This is due to the high density of neutral masses at this height and the speed at which sounding rockets travel. These factors limit the ability to understand the quantity and quality of neutral masses in these regions; the density of these masses and the percentage of different masses present is not well resolved. Therefore, there exists a need to further investigate neutral mass in the ionosphere, and this research aims at presenting a possible instrument for doing so. We conducted experiments to evaluate whether a residual gas analyzer (RGA) could be used as a neutral mass spectrometer for application in the E- and D-region ionosphere. The basic experimental configuration was a roughing vacuum pump attached to a turbo vacuum which together brought the configuration to a pressure between 5 × 10−9 to 2 × 10−8 Torr. With the RGA within the vacuum, data was collected on the trends found, accuracy, and scanning speed of the instrument. Ultimately, the RGA was able to collect at a rate of 9 seconds per AMU studied with a deviation of around ±10−10 Torr when running in secondary electron multiplier mode (SEM). The results did not support the potential flight of a RGA on future sounding rocket campaigns for studying neutral masses within the ionosphere, however solutions around the limitations of the device are offered.
Smith, Austin Matheus, "Ionospheric Neutral Mass Spectroscopy" (2023). Honors College Theses. 27.