Sounding Rocket Observation of Nitric Oxide in the Polar Night

An altitude profile of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the 80–110 km altitude range was measured in the polar night from a sounding rocket on 27 January 2020. The observations were made using the technique of stellar occultation with a UV spectrograph observing the γ (1,0) band of NO near 215 nm. The tangent point for the altitude profile was at 74° latitude, a location that had been in darkness for 80 days. The retrieved slant column density profile is interpreted using an assumed four-parameter analytic profile shape. Retrievals of the fitting parameters yield a profile with a peak NO concentration of 2.2 ± 0.7 × 108 cm−3 at 93.5 ± 4.1 km. The observations were made during a time of minimum solar and geomagnetic activity. The NO maximum retrieved from the rocket profile is significantly larger in abundance and lower in altitude than other observations on the same day at nearby latitudes just outside the polar night. These rocket-borne results are consistent with NO that is created over the course over the polar winter and is confined to high latitudes in the polar night by the mesospheric polar vortex. During the course of that confinement the abundance increases due to the lack of photodissociation, allowing the NO to descend. We show that the observed descent can be explained by eddy diffusion-driven transport, though vertical advection cannot be ruled out.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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