Intrinsic Magnetic Fields of the Planets: Mercury to Neptune
In the past three decades, studies of the magnetic fields of Earth's Moon and all the planets, except for Pluto, have been conducted by spacecraft of the U.S.A. and of Venus and Mars by the former U.S.S.R. Among the terrestrial planets, only Mercury (Mariner 10: 1974 and 1975) is globally magnetized while the Moon and Venus are unmagnetized. The situation at Mars is still unclear, but if any global field exists, it is quite small. In 1979, Pioneer 11 discovered a magnetic field and radiation belt at Saturn, further elaborated on by Voyagers 1 (1980) and 2 (1981). Pioneers 10 (1974) and 11 (1975) and Voyagers 1 (1979) and 2 (1979) examined in detail the magnetic field of Jupiter, which had been inferred initially and studied remotely due to its non-thermal radio emissions in the late 1950s. Jupiter's magnetic field is much stronger than Earth's and distinctly non-dipolar close to the planet. Saturn has a much weaker field than Jupiter, and it is surprisingly axisymmetric (to degree n = 3) with respect to its rotation axis. The Voyager fly-bys of Uranus and Neptune in 1986 and 1989 discovered global magnetic fields and trapped energetic particle radiation belts. Both Uranus and Neptune display remarkably similar magnetic fields (quite different from Jupiter, Saturn and Earth). In an astrophysical sense, Uranus and Neptune are described as oblique rotators because of the large angular offset of their magnetic axes from their rotation axes (59 degrees and 47 degrees). Additionally, their magnetic `centres' are displaced by substantial fractions of a planetary radius (0.31 RU and 0.55 RN). This paper summarizes our present knowledge of the quantitative characteristics of the magnetic fields of these planets.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series A
- Pub Date:
- November 1994