AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 116. The Solar System and Extra-Solar Planets
Oral, Saturday, January 9, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Ballroom A

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[116.04] Images of Uranus' Near-IR H3+ and H2 Emissions

L.M. Trafton (Univ.Texas at Austin), S. Miller (UCL), G.E. Ballester (Univ. Mich.)

Uranus is the only major planet with a prominent hot, extended H corona. Near-infrared spectra of Uranus show substantial global ionospheric H3+ and thermospheric H2-quadrupole emission with rotational temperatures varying between extremes of 600 and 900 K. Our previous spectra have indicated that hot H2 emits above the limb as high as 7% of the planet's radius and that H3+ along the central meridian may be more concentrated towards the center of the disk than is H2. Non-auroral emissions appear to dominate Uranus' near-IR emission spectrum, in contrast to the case for Jupiter. Uranus' magnetic pole is tilted 60 deg relative to the spin axis, so the auroral emissions should be detectable against the background emissions through modulation by the planet's rotation. Voyager UVS detected spatially localized UV auroral H2 emission near both magnetic poles. However, the FUV observations of IUE, Voyager, and HST so far been ambiguous regarding the strength of Uranus' auroral activity. A powerful method to separate auroral from non-auroral emissions and to study the excitation processes of the latter is spatial imaging of the emissions.

Using NSFCam at the IRTF on July 25-28, 1998, we obtained rotationally-resolved narrow-band images of Uranusí near-IR H3+ and H2 emissions. These images reveal spatial variations over the disk for both species which vary with rotational phase. They are expected to help elucidate the aurora and the hot corona-hot thermosphere connection. We report preliminary results from these images. These include an investigation of time-of-day (i.e. solar zenith angle) effects by comparing and contrasting morning and evening limb emissions; inferring the role of solar EUV in exciting H3+ and governing its distribution over the disk; determining the vertical distribution and scale height of H2; and investigating the hemispherical IR auroral power output.


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