Plasma-gas interactions in planetary atmospheres and their relevance for the terrestrial hydrogen budget

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H.U. Nass
H.J. Fahr


The relevance of charge exchange processes for the evaporation of neutral gases out of planetary gravitational fields has been known for quite a long time. For the planetary escape, however, collisions of the escaping constituent with both neutral and ionized atmospheric species operate in building up the escape flux. For the Earth, hydrogen collisions with O-atoms and O+- and H+- ions lead to about comparable contributions to the hydrogen escape at heights below 800 km, whereas at larger heights only charge exchange collisions need to be considered. In the present work, the lower region is therefore described by particle and energy flux conservation concepts, whereas in the upper region free-flight kinetic concepts are used. We give solutions for the height profiles of the hydrogen density, temperature and escape flux. The inclusion of charge exchange collisions increases the scale height, and consequently a smaller decrease of the hydrogen density is given. The hydrogen temperature, however, is reduced by including this effect. The charge exchange processes contribute about 70% to the total hydrogen escape which is of the order of a few 107 atoms/cm2 s at the plasma pause.

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Nass , H., & Fahr, H. (1984). Plasma-gas interactions in planetary atmospheres and their relevance for the terrestrial hydrogen budget. Journal of Geophysics, 56(1), 34-46. Retrieved from


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