A consistent understanding of the ribbon structure for the Io plasma torus at the Voyager 1, 1991 ground-based, and Galileo J0 epochs
A new four-dimensional (three spatial and local time) empirical model for the Io plasma torus is presented that includes several System III longitude asymmetries and a dawn-dusk electric field with variable direction and magnitude. The model is used to analyze and compare observations for the peak density structure of the plasma torus acquired at the 1979 Voyager 1, the 1991 ground-based, and the 1995 Galileo J0 epochs. The mean magnitude of the dawn-dusk electric field is determined to be much smaller at the 1991 ground-based epoch than at the Voyager 1 and Galileo J0 epochs. A consistent understanding of the radial structure for the density peaks in the plasma torus may then be achieved for these epochs if the dawn-dusk electric field departs by ∼20° from the true dawn-dusk direction and if account is taken of absolute density changes. The ratio of the electron density in the inner and outer plasma torus varies significantly for the three epochs and indicates different temporal evolutions in the balance of the plasma torus production and loss processes. The undisturbed electron density at Io's position in the plasma torus is calculated and has significantly different values at the three epochs; it is shown for each epoch to undergo large variations as Io changes its location in heliocentric phase angle and System III longitude. These large variations provide a wide variety of changing upstream plasma conditions for Io's atmospheric formation, local aurora and distant footprint emissions, and electrodynamic interaction.