Galileo Radio Occultation Measurements of Io's Ionosphere

Global Image of Io (False Color) Global Image of Io

The reference given below contains a detailed account of the results derived from the Galileo radio occultation experiments at Io. The abstract is included here to summarize the main findings. Further information about the experiment geometry may be found in the accompanying table and figure. A compressed tar archive of the electron density profile data files and associated labels from the Io radio occultation experiments is available for download. The false color image of Io shown above was produced by the Planetary Image Research Lab at the University of Arizona.


D. P. Hinson, A. J. Kliore, F. M. Flasar, J. D. Twicken, P. J. Schinder, and R. G. Herrera, Galileo radio occultation measurements of Io's ionosphere and plasma wake, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 103, No. A12, 29343-29357, 1998.

Abstract: Six radio occultation experiments were conducted with the Galileo orbiter in 1997, yielding detailed measurements of the distribution and motion of plasma surrounding Io. This distribution has two components. One is highly asymmetric, consisting of a wake or tail that appears only on the downstream side and extends to distances as large as 10 Io radii. The other resembles a bound ionosphere and is present within a few hundred kilometers of Io's surface throughout the upstream and downstream hemispheres. Motion of plasma within the wake was measured through cross correlation of data acquired simultaneously at two widely separated terrestrial antennas. Plasma near Io's equatorial plane is moving away from Io in the downstream direction. Its speed increases from 30 km/s at a distance of 3 Io radii from the center of Io to 57 km/s at 7 Io radii. The latter corresponds to corotation with Jupiter's magnetic field, which suggests that bulk plasma motion rather than wave motion is being observed. Results for the bound ionosphere include vertical profiles of electron density at 10 locations near Io's terminator. The ionosphere is substantial, with the peak density exceeding 50,000 per cubic centimeter at 9 out of 10 locations and reaching a maximum of 277,000 per cubic centimeter. The peak density varies systematically with Io longitude, with maxima near the center of the hemispheres facing toward (0 deg W) and away from (180 deg W) Jupiter and minima near the center of the downstream (90 deg W) and upstream (270 deg W) hemispheres. This pattern may be related to the Alfvenic current system induced by Io's motion through magnetospheric plasma. The vertical extent of the bound ionosphere increases from about 200 km near the center of the upstream hemisphere to about 400 km near the boundary between the leading and trailing hemispheres. There is a close resemblance between one ionospheric profile and a Chapman layer, and the topside scale height implies a plasma temperature of 202 +/- 14 K if Na+ is the principal ion. Two intense volcanic hot spots, Kanehekili and 9606A, may be influencing the atmospheric structure at this location.

Locations of Radio Occultation Measurements

The locations of radio occultation measurements with Galileo and Pioneer 10 (P10) are shown on the map of Io below. The 0 deg (180 deg) meridian faces toward (away from) Jupiter. The center of the upstream hemisphere is at 0 deg N, 270 deg W. The date and geometry of each Galileo occultation event may be found in the accompanying table. This global mosaic was prepared by the Planetary Image Research Lab at the University of Arizona with data provided by the Galileo Imaging Team.

Locations of Radio Occultation

Download Electron Density Profiles

The Galileo Radio Propagation Team has generated profiles of electron number density versus radius in Io's ionosphere. A compressed tar archive (in .tgz format) of the 12 electron density profile (EDS) data files and associated labels from the Io radio occultation experiments may be downloaded by clicking here. The profiles and labels have been delivered to NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS). The accompanying table indicates the name of the electron density profile data file for each occultation event. The format of each EDS file is described in the label associated with it.

Last updated: October 17, 2003
David Hinson / Joe Twicken