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Reappraising the Distributions of Energetic Electrons at Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus from Data Analyses and Physics-based Models
  • Daniel Santos-Costa
Daniel Santos-Costa
Southwest Research Institute

Corresponding Author:daniel.santoscosta@swri.edu

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The in-situ magnetospheric exploration of the four large planets of our solar system had started with Pioneer 10’s flyby of Jupiter in Dec. 1973. The second collection of field, particle and radio data of the gas giant was carried out by Pioneer 11 in Dec. 1974, before this spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn in Sep. 1979. Around the same period, Voyager 1 (2) flew by Jupiter in Mar. (Jul.) 1979 then Saturn in Nov. (Aug.) 1980 (1981). As of today, only Voyager 2 visited the magnetospheres of Uranus (Jan. 1986) and Neptune (Aug. 1989). Galileo had remained the only spacecraft to orbit an outer planet for several years (1995 - 2003) until the arrival of Juno at Jupiter in 2016. Between 2004 and 2017, the Cassini mission had provided a wealth of in-situ data pertinent to the study of magnetospheric particles at Saturn. In this paper, we present our current understanding of the processes that shape the spatial distributions of energetic electrons trapped in the magnetospheres of Jupiter (L < 6), Saturn (L < 15) and Uranus (L < 15) obtained by combining multi-instrument analyses of data from past missions (Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini) and computational models of charged particle fluxes. To determine what controls the energy and spatial distributions throughout the different magnetospheres, we compute the time evolution of particle distributions with the help of a diffusion theory particle transport code that solves the governing 3-D Fokker-Planck equation. Particle, field and wave datasets are either used to provide model constraints, assist in modeling physical processes, or validate our simulation results. We first emphasize our latest results regarding the relative (or coupled) role of mechanisms at Saturn, including the radial transport and interactions of electrons with Saturn’s dust/neutral/plasma environments and waves, as well as particle sources from high-latitudes, interchange injections, and outer magnetospheric region. The lessons learned from our modeling of electron distributions at Saturn are used to identify the processes that may be missing in our modeling of Jupiter’s energetic electron environment or those in need to be implemented using new modeling concepts. Our first physics-based modeling of electron populations at Uranus is also assessed with our data-model comparison approach.