Characteristics of proton velocity distribution functions in the near-lunar wake from Chandrayaan-1/SWIM observations

Dhanya, M.B.; Bhardwaj, Anil; Futaana, Yoshifumi; Barabash, Stas; Alok, Abhinaw; Wieser, Martin; Holmström, Mats; Wurz, Peter (2016). Characteristics of proton velocity distribution functions in the near-lunar wake from Chandrayaan-1/SWIM observations. Icarus, 271, pp. 120-130. Elsevier 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.01.032

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Due to the high absorption of solar wind plasma on the lunar dayside, a large scale wake structure is formed downstream of the Moon. However, recent in-situ observations have revealed the presence of protons in the near-lunar wake (100 km to 200 km from the surface). The solar wind, either directly or after interaction with the lunar surface (including magnetic anomalies), is the source of these protons in the near-wake region. Using the entire data from the SWIM sensor of the SARA experiment onboard Chandrayaan-1, we analyzed the velocity distribution of the protons observed in the near-lunar wake. The average velocity distribution functions, computed in the solar wind rest frame, were further separated based on the angle between the upstream solar wind velocity and the IMF. Although the protons enter the wake parallel as well as perpendicular to the IMF, the velocity distribution were not identical for the different IMF orientations, indicating the control of IMF in the proton entry processes. Several proton populations were identified from the velocity distribution and their possible entry mechanism were inferred based on the characteristics of the velocity distribution. These entry mechanisms include (i) diffusion of solar wind protons into the wake along IMF, (ii) the solar wind protons with finite gyro radii that are aided by the wake boundary electric field, (iii) solar wind protons with gyro-radii larger than lunar radii from the tail of the solar wind velocity distribution, and (iv) scattering of solar wind protons from the dayside lunar surface or from magnetic anomalies. In order to gain more insight into the entry mechanisms associated with different populations, backtracing is carried out for each of these populations. For most of the populations, the source of the protons obtained from backtracing is found to be in agreement with that inferred from the velocity distribution. There are few populations that could not be explained by the known mechanisms and remain unknown.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Wieser, Martin and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science > 530 Physics
600 Technology > 620 Engineering








Katharina Weyeneth-Moser

Date Deposited:

28 Oct 2016 14:39

Last Modified:

05 Feb 2018 02:30

Publisher DOI:





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