The Jupiter-Io Connection: An Alfvén Engine in Space

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Science  09 Oct 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4824, pp. 170-176
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4824.170


Much has been learned about the electromagnetic interaction between Jupiter and its satellite Io from in situ observations. Io, in its motion through the Io plasma torus at Jupiter, continuously generates an Alfvén wing that carries two billion kilowatts of power into the jovian ionosphere. Concurrently, Io is acted upon by a J x B force tending to propel it out of the jovian system. The energy source for these processes is the rotation of Jupiter. This unusual planet-satellite coupling serves as an archetype for the interaction of a large moving conductor with a magnetized plasma, a problem of general space and astrophysical interest.