The solar activity induces long term and short term periodical variations in the dynamics and composition of Earth's atmosphere. The Sun also shows non periodical (i.e., impulsive) activity that reaches the planets orbiting around it. In particular, Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections (ICMEs) reach Earth and interact with its magnetosphere and upper neutral atmosphere. Nevertheless, the interaction with the upper atmosphere is not well characterized because of the absence of regular and dedicated in situ measurements at high altitudes; thus, current descriptions of the thermosphere are based on semi empirical models. In this paper, we present the total neutral mass densities of the thermosphere retrieved from the orbital data of the International Space Station (ISS) using the General Perturbation Method, and we applied these densities to routinely compiled trajectories of the ISS in low Earth orbit (LEO). These data are explicitly independent of any atmospheric model. Our density values are consistent with atmospheric models, which demonstrates that our method is reliable for the inference of thermospheric density. We have inferred the thermospheric total neutral density response to impulsive solar activity forcing from 2001 to the end of 2006 and determined how solar events affect this response. Our results reveal that the ISS orbital parameters can be used to infer the thermospheric density and analyze solar effects on the thermosphere.
- Thermosphere total neutral density
- ISS drag coefficient
- Sun-Earth interaction
- Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections