The Analyzer of Space Plasma and EneRgetic Atoms (ASPERA-3) on board Mars Express is designed to study the interaction between the solar wind and the atmosphere of Mars and to characterize the plasma and neutral gas environment in near-Mars space. Neutral Particle Detectors (NPD-1 and 2), which form part of the ASPERA-3 instrument suite, are Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA) detectors which use the time-of-flight (ToF) technique to resolve the energy of detected particles. In the present study, we perform a statistical analysis of NPD ToF data collected between 14 March 2004 and 17 June 2004 when Mars Express was located at the dayside of Mars looking toward the planet. After pre-processing and removal of UV contamination, the ToF spectra were fitted with simple analytical functions so as to derive a set of parameters. The behavior of these parameters, as a function of spacecraft position and attitude, is compared with a model, which describes ENA generation by charge exchange between shocked solar wind protons and extended Martian exosphere. The observations and the model agree well, indicating that the recorded signals are charge-exchanged shocked solar wind.
- ENA, Mars