Observations of short time scale variability of the Jovian UV aurora and simulation of morphological patterns

J.C. Gerard, D. Grodent, V. Dols (LPAP, University of Liege), G.R. Gladstone, J.H. Waite (Southwest Research Institute), J.T. Clarke, G.E. Ballester (SPRL, University of Michigan), J. Trauger (JPL)

A database of far ultraviolet auroral images collected with the Faint Object Camera and Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC2) on board the Hubble Space Telescope has been constructed over the last five years. Some morphological features are recurrent but significant time variations are also observed. A set of WFPC2 images obtained in May 1997 shows that, within a relatively stable general morphology, variations occur inside the polar cap in 4 minutes or less, implying short timescale acceleration processes.

A model simulating Earth view of auroral arcs and diffuse emissions in the north polar region has been developed. Simple geometric cases are described to illustrate the dependence on the altitude, atmospheric scale height and central meridian planetary longitude of an idealized auroral morphology seen from Earth orbit. The numerical simulation makes it possible to assess the importance of limb brightening and the contribution from high altitude auroral emission located behind the planetary limb. As an application, four images obtained with WFPC2 are used to determine the characteristics of their auroral (discrete and diffuse) structures. The apparent brightness distribution along the arcs may only be reproduced if intrinsic longitudinal (or local time) variations are introduced, in addition to the path length effects of the viewing geometry.