Comparative Investigation of the Energetic Ion Spectra Comprising the Magnetospheric Ring Currents of the Solar System

Investigated here are factors that control the intensities and shapes of energetic ion spectra that make up the ring current populations of the strongly magnetized planets of the solar system, specifically those of Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Following a previous and similar comparative investigation of radiation belt electrons, we here turn our attention to ions. Specifically, we examine the possible role of the differential ion Kennel-Petschek limit, as moderated by Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron (EMIC) waves, as a standard for comparing the most intense ion spectra within the strongly magnetized planetary magnetospheres. In carrying out this investigation, the substantial complexities engendered by the very different ion composition distributions of these diverse magnetospheres must be addressed, given that the dispersion properties of the EMIC waves are strongly determined by the ion composition of the plasmas within which the waves propagate. Chosen for comparison are the ion spectra within these systems that are the most intense observed, specifically at 100 keV and 1 MeV. We find that Earth and Jupiter are unique in having their most intense ion spectra likely limited and sculpted by the Kennel-Petschek process. The ion spectra of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune reside far below their respective limits and are likely limited by interactions with gas and dust (Saturn) and by the absence of robust ion acceleration processes (Uranus and Neptune). Suggestions are provided for further testing the efficacy of the differential Kennel-Petschek limit for ions using the Van Allen Probes.
Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Date Published