Articles | Volume 23, issue 3
30 Mar 2005
 | 30 Mar 2005

Magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling currents in Jupiter's middle magnetosphere: effect of magnetosphere-ionosphere decoupling by field-aligned auroral voltages

J. D. Nichols and S. W. H. Cowley

Abstract. We consider the effect of field-aligned voltages on the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling current system associated with the breakdown of rigid corotation of equatorial plasma in Jupiter's middle magnetosphere. Previous analyses have assumed perfect mapping of the electric field and flow along equipotential field lines between the equatorial plane and the ionosphere, whereas it has been shown that substantial field-aligned voltages must exist to drive the field-aligned currents associated with the main auroral oval. The effect of these field-aligned voltages is to decouple the flow of the equatorial and ionospheric plasma, such that their angular velocities are in general different from each other. In this paper we self-consistently include the field-aligned voltages in computing the plasma flows and currents in the system. A third order differential equation is derived for the ionospheric plasma angular velocity, and a power series solution obtained which reduces to previous solutions in the limit that the field-aligned voltage is small. Results are obtained to second order in the power series, and are compared to the original zeroth order results with no parallel voltage. We find that for system parameters appropriate to Jupiter the effect of the field-aligned voltages on the solutions is small, thus validating the results of previously-published analyses.