Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
10 Dec 2009
 | 10 Dec 2009

Use of O2 airglow for calibrating direct atomic oxygen measurements from sounding rockets

J. Hedin, J. Gumbel, J. Stegman, and G. Witt

Abstract. Accurate knowledge about the distribution of atomic oxygen is crucial for many studies of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere. Direct measurements of atomic oxygen by the resonance fluorescence technique at 130 nm have been made from many sounding rocket payloads in the past. This measurement technique yields atomic oxygen profiles with good sensitivity and altitude resolution. However, accuracy is a problem as calibration and aerodynamics make the quantitative analysis challenging. Most often, accuracies better than a factor 2 are not to be expected from direct atomic oxygen measurements. As an example, we present results from the NLTE (Non Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium) sounding rocket campaign at Esrange, Sweden, in 1998, with simultaneous O2 airglow and O resonance fluorescence measurements. O number densities are found to be consistent with the nightglow analysis, but only within the uncertainty limits of the resonance fluorescence technique. Based on these results, we here describe how better atomic oxygen number densities can be obtained by calibrating direct techniques with complementary airglow photometer measurements and detailed aerodynamic analysis. Night-time direct O measurements can be complemented by photometric detection of the O2 (b1g+X3g-) Atmospheric Band at 762 nm, while during daytime the O2 (a1ΔgX3g-) Infrared Atmospheric Band at 1.27 μm can be used. The combination of a photometer and a rather simple resonance fluorescence probe can provide atomic oxygen profiles with both good accuracy and good height resolution.