AAS 197, January 2001
Session 50. Studies of Solar System Objects
Display, Tuesday, January 9, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[50.07] Jupiter's Magnetosphere: The Nearest Astrophysical Plasma

N.M. Schneider (LASP, U. Colorado)

Jupiter's magnetosphere is dominated by a heavy-ion plasma which originates at Io. Volcanoes on Io spew out vast quantities of sulfur, oxygen, sodium, potassium, and chlorine, of which about one ton per second escapes as neutrals into the magnetosphere. There, electron-impact ionization creates a self-sustaining ``plasma torus'' encircling Jupiter at Io's orbit. Densities of a few thousand per cc, and electron temperatures of about 50,000K make the plasma torus comparable to many emission-line nebulae.

The proximity of this plasma to Earth, along with its intruiging variabilities, has made it one of the most intensely studied emission nebulae. In addition to imaging and spectroscopic ``remote sensing'' by ground-based and space-based observatories, six spacecraft have sampled the plasma directly. As could be expected, this intense scrutiny has asked as many questions as it has answered. Key issues such as the source of energy, the cause of variability and the origin of major structures remain unresolved. This poster will highlight observational techniques, connections with astrophysics, outstanding questions, and opportunities for future discoveries.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: nick.schneider@lasp.colorado.edu

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