Detection of cold gas releases in space via low-energy neutral atom imaging

David J. McComas, Herbert O. Funsten, Kurt R. Moore, Earl E. Scime, Michelle F. Thomsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Low energy neutral atoms (LENAs) are produced in space plasmas by charge exchange between the ambient magnetospheric plasma ions and cold neutral atoms. Under normal conditions these cold neutrals come from the terrestrial geocorona, a shroud of few-eV hydrogen atoms surrounding the Earth. As a consequence of this charge exchange, it has become possible to remotely image many regions of the magnetosphere for the first time utilizing recently developed LENA imaging technology. In addition to the natural hydrogen geocorona, conventional explosions and maneuvering thruster firings can also introduce large amounts of cold gas into the space environment. In this paper we examine whether such potentially clandestine activities could also be remotely observed for the first time via LENA imaging. First, we examine the fluxes of LENAs produced in the space environment from a conventional explosion. Then we review the present state of the art in the emerging field of LENA detection and imaging. We conclude that the sensitivities for present LENA imager designs may be just adequate for detecting some mad-made releases. With additional improvements in LENA detection capabilities, this technique could become an important new method for monitoring for conventional explosions, as well as other man-made neutral releases, in the space environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
EditorsSankaran Gowrinathan, James F. Shanley, C.B. Johnson
PublisherPubl by Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)0819411884
StatePublished - Dec 1 1993
Externally publishedYes
EventSurveillance Technologies and Imaging Components - Orlando, FL, USA
Duration: Apr 13 1993Apr 14 1993

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


ConferenceSurveillance Technologies and Imaging Components
CityOrlando, FL, USA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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