New Measurement of the Vertical Atmospheric Density Profile From Occultations of the Crab Nebula With X-Ray Astronomy Satellites Suzaku and Hitomi

We present new measurements of the vertical density profile of the Earth s atmosphere at altitudes between 70 and 200 km, based on Earth occultations of the Crab Nebula observed with the X-ray Imaging Spectrometer onboard Suzaku and the hard X-ray Imager onboard Hitomi. X-ray spectral variation due to the atmospheric absorption is used to derive tangential column densities of the absorbing species, that is, N and O including atoms and molecules, along the line of sight. The tangential column densities are then inverted to obtain the atmospheric number density. The data from 219 occultation scans at low latitudes in both hemispheres from September 15, 2005 to March 26, 2016 are analyzed to generate a single, highly averaged (in both space and time) vertical density profile. The density profile is in good agreement with the Naval-Research-Laboratory s-Mass-Spectrometer-Incoherent-Scatter-Radar-Extended (NRLMSISE-00) model, except for the altitude range of 70–110 km, where the measured density is ∼50\% smaller than the model. Such a deviation is consistent with the recent measurement with the SABER aboard the TIMED satellite (Cheng et al., 2020, Given that the NRLMSISE-00 model was constructed some time ago, the density decline could be due to the radiative cooling/contracting of the upper atmosphere as a result of greenhouse warming in the troposphere. However, we cannot rule out a possibility that the NRL model is simply imperfect in this region. We also present future prospects for the upcoming Japan-US X-ray astronomy satellite, X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), which will allow us to measure atmospheric composition with unprecedented spectral resolution of ΔE ∼ 5 eV in 0.3–12 keV.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Number of Pages
ISSN Number
Download citation