Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

Planetary Magnetospheres

planetary magnetospheresThe magnetospheres of objects in our solar system are extremely diverse. Mercury’s very weak magnetic field is only thousands of km in size and is dominated by the solar wind such that solar ions sometimes reach the surface. In contrast, Jupiter and Saturn have magnetospheres that are millions of km across and are dominated by the large magnetic fields, rapid rotations and extremely large plasma sources coming from their moons like Io and Enceladus. In fact moons like Jupiter’s Ganymede, posses their own small systems inside their parent planet’s magnetosphere. With such a broad range of behaviors, Climate & Space scientists compare and contrast how these magnetospheres respond to their space environment, learning valuable information about magnetospheric dynamics and formation, auroral phenomena, and even planetary composition.

Researchers in Climate & Space are studying planetary magnetosphere by building instruments for and participating in a range of NASA and ESA missions as well as using state-of-the-art numerical modeling. Climate & Space faculty are currently participating in the Mercury MESSENGER mission, the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Express missions, the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan, the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Hubble Space Telescope observations of comets and Jupiter and Saturn aurora, and several others.

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