10 December 1986 Ultraviolet Glows From Recombination On Spacecraft Surfaces
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Abstract
Recent observations of visible and near-ultraviolet glows extending from ram-directed surfaces of low earth-orbiting spacecraft (such as Shuttle Orbiter and Atmosphere Explorer) have aroused interest in the mechanism responsible and the potential for similar foreground emissions at heretofore unmonitored wavelengths. The spectral and spatial distribution of the glow in the visible indicates that it is predominantly due to recombination of nitric oxide and atomic oxygen catalyzed by the surface exposed to the airflow. Incident ambient 0 and N atoms are also expected to be recombined into oxygen, nitrogen, and nitric oxide molecules in electronically excited states, many of which radiate in the near- and vacuum ultraviolet. We predict the emission wavelengths and off-surface spatial extents of these UV glows from existing laboratory data on surface-catalyzed and homogeneous gas-phase recombination radiations. Among the features expected are the 02 Herzberg I bands, the NO a bands (whose presence is in fact suggested by past spacecraft measurements), and the N2 Lyman-Birge-Hopfield and Vegard-Kaplan bands. The observed variation of glow brightnesses with surface material properties could serve as the basis for remote optical discrimination among exo-reentry space objects.
© (1986) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
John L. Barrett, Irving L. Kofsky, Edmond Murad, "Ultraviolet Glows From Recombination On Spacecraft Surfaces", Proc. SPIE 0687, Ultraviolet Technology, (10 December 1986); doi: 10.1117/12.936541; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.936541
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