LASP Science Seminars
Radiation belts of the Giant Planets
Peter Kollmann (JHUAPL)
Planets with an intrinsic magnetic field trap and accelerate charged particles and form radiation belts. Radiation belts exist in a permanent interplay of different physical processes that provide and accelerate charged particles, and cool and remove them again. The detailed workings of these processes as well as their relative importance is an ongoing topic of investigation. The structure and dynamics of radiation belts are as diverse as the planets they are encompassing. Physical processes are generally universal. However, processes that leave ambiguous signatures in measurements at one planet, may be straightforward to identify at another.
This presentation will provide an introduction into radiation belts in general and then focus on the Gas Giant Planets Jupiter and Saturn. Some of the major processes that shape and maintain their electron and ion radiation belts will be discussed. We will point out which of these processes are unique to these planets and which processes may be easier to study there compared to the Earth. The study of radiation belts is not only of relevance for space physics but also has an impact on several fields of planetary sciences. We will discuss some of the overlapping areas for example how radiation weathers the surfaces of moons that orbit within the Giant Planet’s radiation belts or how we can use radiation measurements to infer properties of rings and exospheres.