Remote Sensing of the Magnetic Moment of Uranus: Predictions for Voyager

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Science  22 Mar 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4693, pp. 1466-1469
DOI: 10.1126/science.227.4693.1466


Power is supplied to a planet's magnetosphere from the kinetic energy of planetary spin and the energy flux of the impinging solar wind. A fraction of this power is available to drive numerous observable phenomena, such as polar auroras and planetary radio emissions. In this report our present understanding of these power transfer mechanisms is applied to Uranus to make specific predictions of the detectability of radio and auroral emissions by the planetary radio astronomy (PRA) and ultraviolet spectrometer (UVS) instruments aboard the Voyager spacecraft before its encounter with Uranus at the end of January 1986. The power available for these two phenomena is (among other factors) a function of the magnetic moment of Uranus. The date of earliest detectability also depends on whether the predominant power source for the magnetosphere is planetary spin or solar wind. The magnetic moment of Uranus is derived for each power source as a function of the date of first detection of radio emissions by the PRA instrument or auroral emissions by the UVS instrument. If we accept the interpretation of ultraviolet observations now available from the Earth-orbiting International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, Uranus has a surface magnetic field of at least 0.6 gauss, and more probably several gauss, making it the largest or second-largest planetary magnetic field in the solar system.