Magnetic Fields at Uranus

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Science  04 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4759, pp. 85-89
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4759.85


The magnetic field experiment on the Voyager 2 spacecraft revealed a strong planetary magnetic field of Uranus and an associated magnetosphere and fully developed bipolar masnetic tail. The detached bow shock wave in the solar wind supersonic flow was observed upstream at 23.7 Uranus radii (1 RU = 25,600 km) and the magnetopause boundary at 18.0 RU, near the planet-sun line. A miaximum magnetic field of 413 nanotesla was observed at 4.19 RU , just before closest approach. Initial analyses reveal that the planetary magnetic field is well represented by that of a dipole offset from the center of the planet by 0.3 RU. The angle between Uranus' angular momentum vector and the dipole moment vector has the surprisingly large value of 60 degrees. Thus, in an astrophysical context, the field of Uranus may be described as that of an oblique rotator. The dipole moment of 0.23 gauss R3U, combined with the large spatial offset, leads to minimum and maximum magnetic fields on the surface of the planet of approximately 0.1 and 1.1 gauss, respectively. The rotation period of the magnetic field and hence that of the interior of the planet is estimated to be 17.29± 0.10 hours; the magnetotail rotates about the planet-sun line with the same period. Thelarge offset and tilt lead to auroral zones far from the planetary rotation axis poles. The rings and the moons are embedded deep within the magnetosphere, and, because of the large dipole tilt, they will have a profound and diurnally varying influence as absorbers of the trapped radiation belt particles.

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