Plasma Observations Near Uranus: Initial Results from Voyager 2

Science  04 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4759, pp. 89-93
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4759.89


Extensive measurements of low-energy positive ions and electrons in the vicinity of Uranus have revealed a fully developed magnetosphere. The magnetospheric plasma has a warm component with a temperature of 4 to 50 electron volts and a peak density of roughly 2 protons per cubic centimeter, and a hot component, with a temperature of a few kiloelectron volts and a peak density of roughly 0.1 proton per cubic centimeter. The warm component is observed both inside and outside of L = 5, whereas the hot component is excluded from the region inside of that L shell. Possible sources of the plasma in the magnetosphere are the extended hydrogen corona, the solar wind, and the ionosphere. The Uranian moons do not appear to be a significant plasma source. The boundary of the hot plasma component at L = 5 may be associated either with Miranda or with the inner limit of a deeply penetrating, solar wind-driven magnetospheric convection system. The Voyager 2 spacecraft repeatedly encountered the plasma sheet in the magnetotail at locations that are consistent with a geometric model for the plasma sheet similar to that at Earth.