Juno observations of spot structures and a split tail in Io-induced aurorae on Jupiter

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Science  24 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6404, pp. 774-777
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1450

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Moons drive structure in Jupiter's aurorae

Like Earth, Jupiter has aurorae generated by energetic particles hitting its atmosphere. Those incoming particles can come from Jupiter's moons Io and Ganymede. Mura et al. used infrared observations from the Juno spacecraft to image the moon-generated aurorae. The pattern induced by Io showed an alternating series of spots, reminiscent of vortices, and sometimes split into two arcs. Aurorae related to Ganymede could also show a double structure. Although the cause of these unexpected features remains unknown, they may provide a way to examine how the moons produce energetic particles or how the particles propagate to Jupiter.

Science, this issue p. 774


Jupiter’s aurorae are produced in its upper atmosphere when incoming high-energy electrons precipitate along the planet’s magnetic field lines. A northern and a southern main auroral oval are visible, surrounded by small emission features associated with the Galilean moons. We present infrared observations, obtained with the Juno spacecraft, showing that in the case of Io, this emission exhibits a swirling pattern that is similar in appearance to a von Kármán vortex street. Well downstream of the main auroral spots, the extended tail is split in two. Both of Ganymede’s footprints also appear as a pair of emission features, which may provide a remote measure of Ganymede’s magnetosphere. These features suggest that the magnetohydrodynamic interaction between Jupiter and its moon is more complex than previously anticipated.

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