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Publication - Dr Karen Aplin

    Atmospheric Electricity at the Ice Giants


    Aplin, KL, Fischer, G, Nordheim, TA, Konovalenko, A, Zakharenko, V & Zarka, P, 2019, ‘Atmospheric Electricity at the Ice Giants’. Space Science Reviews.


    Lightning was detected by Voyager 2 at Uranus and Neptune, and weaker electrical processes also occur throughout planetary atmospheres from galactic cosmic ray (GCR) ionisation. Lightning is an indicator of convection, whereas electrical processes away from storms modulate cloud formation and chemistry, particularly if there is little insolation to drive other mechanisms. The ice giants appear to be unique in the Solar System in that they are distant enough from the Sun for GCR-related mechanisms to be significant for clouds and climate, yet also convective enough for lightning to occur. This paper reviews observations (both from Voyager 2 and Earth), data analysis and modelling, and considers options for future missions. Radio, energetic particle and magnetic instruments are recommended for future orbiters, and Huygens-like atmospheric electricity sensors for in situ observations. Uranian lightning is also expected to be detectable from terrestrial radio telescopes.

    Full details in the University publications repository