Evaluating the Performance of a Plasma Analyzer for a Space Weather Monitor Mission Concept

G. Nicolaou*, R. T. Wicks, I. J. Rae, D. O. Kataria

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


We use historical analysis of solar wind plasma and coronal mass ejections to define the range of performance required for an ion analyzer for future space weather monitoring missions. We adopt the design of a top hat electrostatic analyzer, capable of measuring the plasma protons and constructing their three-dimensional distribution functions. The design is based on previous heritage instruments and allows monitoring of extreme space weather events. In order to evaluate the future observations and their analysis methods, we model the expected response of the instrument in simulated plasma conditions. We evaluate a novel analysis method which can determine on board the plasma bulk properties, such as density, velocity, and temperature from the statistical moments of the observed velocity distribution functions of the plasma particles. We quantify the accuracy of the derived parameters critical for space weather purposes, by comparing them with the corresponding input solar wind parameters. In order to validate the instrument design, we examine the accuracy over the entire range of the input parameters we expect to observe in solar wind, from benign to extreme space weather conditions. We also use realistic parameters of fast solar wind streams and interplanetary coronal mass ejections as measured by the Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft, to investigate the performance of the example instrument and the accuracy of the analysis. We discuss the achieved accuracy and its relevance to space weather monitoring concepts. We address sources of significant errors, and we demonstrate potential improvements by using a fitting analysis method to derive the results.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020SW002559
Number of pages19
JournalSpace Weather
Issue number12
Early online date2 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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