Planetary Magnetospheres

Most of the planets in our solar system have a strong internal magnetic field that is capable of carving out an extended magnetospheric cavity in the solar wind.  This allows the formation of intense radiation belts of energetic trapped particles.  As on Earth, the precipitation of such particles into the atmosphere causes auroral emissions which have been identified by satellite and ground-based observations.   The presence of satellites (moons) inside the magnetosphere of the giant planets provides an important source of plasma, which modifies the dynamics of the magnetosphere and the mechanisms leading to auroral processes.  Relativistic electrons in the inner radiation belt of Jupiter produce intense synchrotron radiation that can be measured by radio antennae on the Earth. We have an active research program aimed at understanding the formation of planetary radiation belts, the structure of the Jovian synchrotron belts, and the processes that lead to planetary auroral emissivity.  The program utilizes data from satellites and ground-based observations together with theoretical modeling.

Affiliated Faculty


Selected Publications

Horne, R. B., R. M. Thorne, S. A Glauert, J. D. Menietti, Y. Y. Shprits, and D. A, Gurnett, Gyro-resonant electron acceleration at Jupiter, Nature Phys., 4, 301, 2008.

Williams, D. J., and R. M. Thorne, Energetic particles over Io’s polar caps, J. Geophys. Res., 108, (A11), 1397, doi:10.1029/2003JA009980, 2003.

Abel, B., and R. M. Thorne, Relativistic charged particle precipitation into Jupiter’s sub-auroral atmosphere, Icarus, 166, 311, 2003.

Bhattacharya, B., R. M. Thorne, and D. J. Williams, On the energy source for diffuse Jovian auroral emissivity,  Geophys. Res Letts, 28, 2751, 2001.

Levin, S. M., S. J. Bolton, S. L. Gulkis, M. J. Kline, B. Bhattacharya, and R. M. Thorne, Modeling Jupiter’s synchrotron radiation, Geophys. Res Lett., 28, 2903, 2001.

Williams, D. J., R. M. Thorne, and B. H. Mauk, Energetic electron beams and trapped electrons at Io, J. Geophys.. Res., 104, 14,739, 1999.

Thorne, R. M., T. P. Armstrong, S. Stone, D. J. Williams, R. W. McEntire, S. J. Bolton, D. A. Gurnett, and M. G. Kivelson, "Galileo evidence for rapid interchange transport in the Io torus, " Geophys. Res,. Lett., 24, 2131, 1997.

Thorne, R. M., "Microscopic plasma processes in the Jovian magnetosphere," in Physics of the Jovian Magnetosphere, p. 454-488, ed. A. J. Dessler, Cambridge Univ. Press (1983).