Our team goal is to determine the nature of the solar wind influence on the outer planet magnetospheres. It is well established that the solar wind is the primary source of plasma in the Earth’s magnetosphere and that it drives magnetic storms and substorms that lead to magnetic reconnection, plasma transport, and drive the terrestrial aurora. The magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, unlike the Earth, are characterized by internal sources of plasma (the moons Io and Enceladus, respectively), large spatial scales, and rapid planetary rotation. Therefore, the degree to which the solar wind influences these magnetospheres has been hotly debated, and it has been proposed that magnetospheric dynamics at Jupiter and Saturn may be driven by centrifugal stresses rather than the solar wind. Now, thanks to the existence of many relevant data sets and foundations laid by the magnetospheric science community, we are in a position to establish more definitively how the solar wind influences these giant magnetospheric systems. Our team is perfectly poised to accomplish this goal due to the inclusion of experts on both the outer planet magnetospheres and the more comprehensively studied magnetosphere of the Earth, combining experience in data analysis, theory, and modeling.

Our team will answer the following questions:

  • How do processes like magnetic reconnection at the Jovian and Saturnian magnetopauses compare to the same processes at Earth’s magnetopause?
  • Is reconnection with the solar wind the dominant mode of interaction, or does the viscous interaction become dominant in the outer solar system?
  • If the primary method of interaction with the solar wind is a viscous process rather than dayside reconnection, how much flux can be opened/closed and mass transferred? How does this compare to mass loss/flux closure estimates from plasmoids?
  • Is there evidence that the solar wind drives tail reconnection at Jupiter and Saturn? If so, what process (dayside reconnection, solar wind compression, or both) is responsible?

For more information you can download our team proposal here.