Role of electronic excited N2 in vibrational excitation of the N2 ground state at high latitudes

L. Campbell, D. C. Cartwright, M. J. Brunger, P. J. O. Teubner

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    Vibrationally excited N2 is important in determining the ionospheric electron density and has also been proposed to play a role in the production of NO in disturbed atmospheres. We report here predictions of the absolute vibrational distributions in the ground electronic state of N2 produced by electron impact excitation, at noon and midnight under quiet geomagnetic conditions and disturbed conditions corresponding to the aurora IBCII+ and IBCIII+ at 60°N latitude and 0° longitude, at altitudes between 130 and 350 km. These predictions were obtained from a model which includes thermal excitation and direct electron impact excitation of the vibrational levels of the N2 ground state and its excited electronic states; radiative cascade from all excited electronic states to all vibrational levels of the ground electronic state; quenching by O, O2, and N2; molecular and ambipolar diffusion; and the dominant chemical reactions. Results from this study show that for both aurora and daytime electron environments: (1) cascade from the higher electronic states of N2 determines the population of the higher vibrational levels in the N2 ground state and (2) the effective ground state vibrational temperature for levels greater than 4 in N2 is predicted to be in the range 4000–13000 K for altitudes greater than 200 km. Correspondingly, the associated enhancement factor for the O+ reaction with vibrationally excited N2 to produce NO+ is predicted to increase with increasing altitude (up to a maximum at a height which increases with auroral strength) for both aurora and daytime environments and to increase with increasing auroral strength. The contribution of the cascade from the excited electronic states was evaluated and found to be relatively minor compared to the direct excitation process.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA09317
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
    Issue numberA9
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


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