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Magnetic reconnection near the planet as a possible driver of Jupiter's mysterious polar auroras

Masters, A; Dunn, WR; Stallard, TS; Manners, H; Stawarz, J; (2021) Magnetic reconnection near the planet as a possible driver of Jupiter's mysterious polar auroras. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics , Article e2021JA029544. 10.1029/2021ja029544. (In press).

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Abstract

Auroral emissions have been extensively observed at the Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. These planets all have appreciable atmospheres and strong magnetic fields, and their auroras predominantly originate from a region encircling each magnetic pole. However, Jupiter’s auroras poleward of these “main” emissions are brighter and more dynamic, and the drivers responsible for much of these mysterious polar auroras have eluded identification to date. We propose that part of the solution may stem from Jupiter’s stronger magnetic field. We model large-scale Alfvénic perturbations propagating through the polar magnetosphere towards Jupiter, showing that the resulting <0.1° deflections of the magnetic field closest to the planet could trigger magnetic reconnection as near as ∼0.2 Jupiter radii above the cloud tops. At Earth and Saturn this physics should be negligible, but reconnection electric field strengths above Jupiter’s poles can approach ∼1 V m-1, typical of the solar corona. We suggest this near-planet reconnection could generate beams of high-energy electrons capable of explaining some of Jupiter’s polar auroras.

Type: Article
Title: Magnetic reconnection near the planet as a possible driver of Jupiter's mysterious polar auroras
DOI: 10.1029/2021ja029544
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1029/2021ja029544
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Jupiter, polar aurora, magnetic field, magnetic reconnection
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10131640
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