Electrodynamics in Giant Planet Atmospheres

Friday, 19 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Tommi Koskinen1, Roger V Yelle1, Panayotis Lavvas2 and James Cho3, (1)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, (2)University of Reims, Reims, France, (3)Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom
The atmospheres of close-in extrasolar giant planets such as HD209458b are strongly ionized by the UV flux of their host stars. We show that photoionization on such planets creates a dayside ionosphere that extends from the thermosphere to the 100 mbar level. The resulting peak electron density near the 1 mbar level is higher than that encountered in any planetary ionosphere of the solar system, and the model conductivity is in fact comparable to the atmospheres of Sun-like stars. As a result, the momentum and energy balance in the upper atmosphere of HD209458b and similar planets can be strongly affected by ion drag and resistive heating arising from wind-driven electrodynamics. Despite much weaker ionization, electrodynamics is nevertheless also important on the giant planets of the solar system. We use a generic framework to constrain the conductivity regimes on close-in extrasolar planets, and compare the results with conductivites based on the same approach for Jupiter and Saturn. By using a generalized Ohm’s law and assumed magnetic fields, we then demonstrate the basic effects of wind-driven ion drag in giant planet atmospheres. Our results show that ion drag is often significant in the upper atmosphere where it can also substantially alter the energy budget through resistive heating.