Photoelectron-mediated spacecraft potential fluctuations
Electric field fluctuations such as those due to plasma waves in Earth\textquoterights magnetosphere may modulate photoelectrons emitted from spacecraft surface, causing fluctuations in spacecraft potential. We experimentally investigate such photoelectron-mediated spacecraft potential fluctuations. The photoelectric charge of a spacecraft model is found to increase with increasing applied electric field as more photoelectrons escape the spacecraft model surface and dissipates with a decrease in the electric field through collection of ambient plasma electrons. When the applied electric field is driven to oscillate at a frequency lower than the response frequency of the spacecraft model, the surface potential follows the electric field oscillations. The spacecraft model maintains an approximately constant potential if the electric field oscillations are driven at a much higher frequency. When a high-frequency electric field modulated by a low-frequency envelope is applied, rectified oscillations in the potential of the spacecraft model are observed. Our experimental results indicate that photoelectron-mediated wave rectifications must be taken into account when spacecraft potential fluctuations are used to infer plasma density structures.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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