Observing planets and small bodies in sputtered high-energy atom fluxes

A. Milillo, S. Orsini, K. C. Hsieh, R. Baragiola, M. Fama, R. Johnson, A. Mura, C. Plainaki, M. Sarantos, T. A. Cassidy, E. De Angelis, M. Desai, R. Goldstein, W. H. Ip, R. Killen, S. Livi

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10 Scopus citations


The evolution of the surfaces of bodies unprotected by either strong magnetic fields or thick atmospheres in the solar system is caused by various processes, induced by photons, energetic ions, and micrometeoroids. Among these processes, the continuous bombardment of the solar wind or energetic magnetospheric ions onto the bodies may significantly affect their surfaces, with implications for their evolution. Ion precipitation produces neutral atom releases into the exosphere through ion sputtering, with velocity distribution extending well above the particle escape limits. We refer to this component of the surface ejecta as sputtered high-energy atoms (SHEA). The use of ion sputtering emission for studying the interaction of exposed bodies (EB) with ion environments is described here. Remote sensing in SHEA in the vicinity of EB can provide mapping of the bodies exposed to ion sputtering action with temporal and mass resolution. This paper speculates on the possibility of performing remote sensing of exposed bodies using SHEA and suggests the need for quantitative results from laboratory simulations and molecular physic modeling in order to understand SHEA data from planetary missions. In Appendix A, referenced computer simulations using existing sputtering data are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA07229
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011


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