What controls the global morphology of planetary aurora?

When (times in MT)
Wed, Jul 24 2024, 2pm - 1 hour
Event Type
Binzheng Zhang
Hong Kong University
Building & Room
CG1-3131 In Person

Planetary magnetic fields control energetic particles in their space environments and guide particles to polar atmospheres to produce stunning auroral forms. As revealed by spacecraft measurements at the Earth, Saturn and Jupiter, the pathways of energetic particles to these planetary polar atmospheres are diverse, suggesting different coupling processes between their ionospheres and magnetospheres. These planets all have dipole-dominated magnetic fields, rotate in the same direction and are blown by solar wind, but what controls the global-scale patterns of energy dissipation, remains unknown. Based on three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamics calculations, we reveal that the competition between planet-driven plasma rotation and solar wind-driven flow convection determines the structure of global auroral morphologies. This unified theoretical framework can reproduce polar aurora from the Earth-type to Jupiter-type, via transition states that are strikingly consistent with the highly variable aurora patterns at Saturn. This generalized description of fundamental magnetospheric physics, proposed here and validated by decades-long observations, is applicable to exoplanetary systems.

About the Speaker