Dix Planetary Science Seminar
The present-day interior structure of a planet is an important reflection of the formation and subsequent thermal evolution of that planet. However, despite decades of spacecraft missions to a variety of target bodies, the interiors of most planets in our Solar System remain poorly constrained. In this talk, I will discuss how actively generated planetary magnetic fields (dynamos) can provide important insights into the interior properties and evolution of planets. Using Jupiter as a case study, I will present new results from the analysis of in situ spacecraft magnetometer data from the NASA Juno Mission (currently in orbit about Jupiter). The spatial morphology of Jupiter’s magnetic field shows surprising hemispheric asymmetry, which may be linked to the dissolution of Jupiter’s rocky core in metallic hydrogen. I also report the first definitive detection of time-variation (secular variation) in a planetary dynamo beyond Earth. This time-variation can be explained by the advection of Jupiter’s magnetic field by the zonal winds, which places a lower bound on the velocity of Jupiter’s winds at depth. These results provide an important complement to other analysis techniques, as gravitational measurements are currently unable to uniquely distinguish between deep and shallow wind scenarios, and between solid and dilute core scenarios. Future analysis will continue to resolve Jupiter’s interior, providing broader insight into the physics of giant planets, with implications for the formation of our Solar System.