Remote sensing of geomagnetic fields and atomic collisions in the mesosphere [CL]

Magnetic-field sensing has contributed to the formulation of the plate-tectonics theory, the discovery and mapping of underground structures on Earth, and the study of magnetism in other planets. Filling the gap between space-based and near-Earth observation, we demonstrate a novel method for remote measurement of the geomagnetic field at an altitude of 85-100 km. The method consists of optical pumping of atomic sodium in the upper mesosphere with an intensity-modulated laser beam, and simultaneous ground-based observation of the resultant magneto-optical resonance when driving the atomic-sodium spins at the Larmor precession frequency. The experiment was carried out at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma (Canary Islands) where we validated this technique and remotely measured the Larmor precession frequency of sodium as 260.4(1) kHz, corresponding to a mesospheric magnetic field of 0.3720(1) G. We demonstrate a magnetometry accuracy level of 0.28 mG/$\sqrt{\text{Hz}}$ in good atmospheric conditions. In addition, these observations allow us to characterize various atomic-collision processes in the mesosphere. Remote detection of mesospheric magnetic fields has potential applications such as mapping of large-scale magnetic structures in the lithosphere and the study of electric-current fluctuations in the ionosphere.

Read this paper on arXiv…

F. Bustos, D. Calia, D. Budker, et. al.
Wed, 14 Feb 18

Comments: 10 pages, 7 figures