1/21/2016 - Probing the Interior Dynamics of Jupiter and Saturn with Gravity and Magnetic Fields


12:00 PM - 12:50 PM
Slichter 3853

Presented By:
Hao Cao -


Probing the Interior Dynamics of Jupiter and Saturn with Gravity and Magnetic Fields

The inner working of solar system gas giant planets remain elusive after decades of exploration. One lasting debate concerns the nature of east-west zonal flows observed on the cloud level of these planets with amplitude on the order of 100 m/s: an observational fact is yet to be established about whether these flows are shallow atmospheric dynamics or surface expression of deep interior dynamics. There is a good chance that such an observational fact can be established, given the upcoming gravity and magnetic field measurements to be carried out by the Juno mission and the Cassini Grand Finale.

In this presentation, I will first describe a critical assessment of the applicability of the thermal wind equation (TWE) in calculating the gravity field associated with deep zonal flows. The TWE, which is a local diagnostic relation, captures the local density variations associated with the zonal flows while neglects the global shape change and density variations with non-local origins. Our analysis shows that the global corrections to the high degree gravity moments are small (less than a few tens of percent). Our analysis also shows that the applicability of the TWE in calculating the gravity moments does depend crucially on retaining the non- sphericity of the background density and gravity. Only when the background non- sphericity of the planet is taken into account, the thermal wind equation (TWE) makes accurate enough prediction (with a few tens of percent errors) for the high- degree gravity moments associated with deep zonal flows.

I will then turn to the magnetic signals associated with deep zonal flows. Using mean field dynamo theory (MFDT), we show that detectable magnetic signals are expected: in the spatial domain, poloidal magnetic fields spatially correlated with deep zonal flows are expected; in the temporal domain, periodic oscillations of the poloidal magnetic field are expected. The period of the magnetic oscillations is controlled by the amplitude of the shear in the zonal flow as well as the amplitude of the dynamo alpha-effect. Numerical magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) calculations designed to study the magnetic field zonal flow interactions seem to confirm the mean field theory picture for this problem.

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