Modeling of the O+ pickup ion sputtering efficiency dependence on solar wind conditions for the Martian atmosphere

Yung Ching Wang, Janet G. Luhmann, François Leblanc, Xiaohua Fang, Robert E. Johnson, Yingjuan Ma, Wing Huen Ip, Lei Li

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27 Scopus citations


Sputtering of the Martian atmosphere by O+pickup ions has been proposed as a potentially important process in the early evolution of the Martian atmosphere. In preparation for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, we performed a study using a Monte Carlo model coupled to a molecular dynamic calculation to investigate the cascade sputtering effects in the region of the Martian exobase. Pickup ion fluxes based on test particle simulations in an MHD model for three different solar wind conditions are used to examine the local and global sputtering efficiencies. The resultant sputtering escape rate is 2×1024 s-1 at nominal solar wind condition and can be enhanced about 50 times when both the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) strength and the solar wind pressure increase. It is found that when the IMF strength becomes stronger, both the pickup ion precipitation energies and the resultant sputtering efficiencies increase. The related escape flux, hot component, and atmospheric energy deposition deduced from the MAVEN measurements may reveal clues about the prominent enhanced sputtering effects. Significant hemispheric asymmetries can be observed related to the solar wind electric fields. The shielding by the crustal fields and the recycling onto the nightside due to different magnetic field draping features can also lead to regional variations of sputtering efficiencies. The results suggest that disturbed or enhanced solar wind conditions provide the best prospects for detecting sputtering effects for MAVEN mission. Key Points When IMF strength is significantly enhanced, the sputtering effects also increase Sputtering escape rate of O under nominal solar wind condition is 2×1024 s-1 Asymmetry of the sputtering effects occurs with respect to the electric fields

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Mars
  • Mars upper atmosphere
  • atmosphere


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