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See detailThe Martian diffuse aurora: a model of ultraviolet and visible emissions
Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg; Soret, Lauriane ULg; Shematovich, V.I. et al

in Icarus (2017), 288

A new type of Martian aurora, characterized by an extended spatial distribution, an altitude lower than the discrete aurora and electron precipitation up to 200 keV has been observed following solar ... [more ▼]

A new type of Martian aurora, characterized by an extended spatial distribution, an altitude lower than the discrete aurora and electron precipitation up to 200 keV has been observed following solar activity on several occasions from the MAVEN spacecraft. We describe the results of Monte Carlo simulations of the production of several ultraviolet and violet auroral emissions for initial electron energies extending from 0.25 to 200 keV. These include the CO2+ ultraviolet doublet (UVD) at 288.3 and 289.6 nm and the Fox–Duffendack–Barker (FDB) bands, CO Cameron and Fourth Positive bands, OI 130.4 and 297.2 nm and CI 156.1 nm and 165.7 nm multiplets. We calculate the nadir and limb production rates of several of these emissions for a unit precipitated energy flux. Our results indicate that electrons in the range 50-200 keV produce maximum CO2+ UVD emission below 75 km, in agreement with the MAVEN observations. We calculate the efficiency of photon production per unit precipitated electron power. The strongest emissions are the CO2+ FDB, UVD and CO Cameron bands and the oxygen mission at 297.2 nm. The metastable a 3Π state which radiates the Cameron bands is deactivated by collisions below about 110 km. As a consequence, we show that the Cameron band emission is expected to peak at a higher altitude than the CO2+ UVD and FDB bands. Collisional quenching also causes the intensity ratio of the CO2+ UVD to CO Cameron bands to increase below ∼100 km in the energetic diffuse aurora. [less ▲]

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See detailSimilarity of the Jovian satellite footprints: spots multiplicity and dynamics
Bonfond, Bertrand ULg; Grodent, Denis ULg; Badman, S. V. et al

in Icarus (2017)

In the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, the intense interaction of the satellites Io, Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus with their surrounding plasma environment leaves a signature in the aurora of the ... [more ▼]

In the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, the intense interaction of the satellites Io, Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus with their surrounding plasma environment leaves a signature in the aurora of the planet. Called satellite footprints, these auroral features appear either as a single spot (Europa and Enceladus) or as multiple spots (Io and Ganymede). Moreover, they can be followed by extended trailing tails in the case of Io and Europa, while no tail has been reported for Ganymede and Enceladus, yet. Here we show that all Jovian footprints can be made of several spots. Furthermore, the footprints all experience brightness variations on timescale of 2-3 minutes. We also demonstrate that the satellite location relative to the plasma sheet is not the only driver for the footprint brightness, but that the plasma environment and the magnetic field strength also play a role. These new findings demonstrate that the Europa and Ganymede footprints are very similar to the Io footprint. As a consequence, the processes expected to take place at Io, such as the bi-directional electron acceleration by Alfvén waves or the partial reflection of these waves on plasma density gradients, can most likely be extended to the other footprints, suggesting that they are indeed universal processes. [less ▲]

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See detailInfluence of the crustal magnetic field on the Mars aurora electron flux and UV brightness
Bisikalo, D. V.; Shematovich, V. I.; Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg et al

in Icarus (2017), 282

Observations with the SPICAM instrument on board Mars Express have shown the occasional presence of localized ultraviolet nightside emissions associated with enhanced energetic electron fluxes. These ... [more ▼]

Observations with the SPICAM instrument on board Mars Express have shown the occasional presence of localized ultraviolet nightside emissions associated with enhanced energetic electron fluxes. These features generally occur in regions with significant radial crustal magnetic field. We use a Monte-Carlo electron transport model to investigate the role of the magnetic field on the downward and upward electron fluxes, the brightness and the emitted power of auroral emissions. Simulations based on an ASPERA-3 measured auroral electron precipitation indicate that magnetic mirroring leads to an intensification of the energy flux carried by upward moving electrons- from about 20% in the absence of crustal magnetic field up to 33-78% when magnetic field is included depending on magnetic field topology. Conservation of the particle flux in a flux tube implies that the presence of the B-field does not appreciably modify the emission rate profiles for an initially isotropic pitch angle distribution. However, we find that crustal magnetic field results in increase of the upward electron flux, and, consequently, in reduction of the total auroral brightness for given energy flux of precipitating electrons. [less ▲]

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See detailStatistical study of Saturn's auroral electron properties with Cassini/UVIS FUV spectral images
Gustin, Jacques ULg; Grodent, Denis ULg; Radioti, Aikaterini ULg et al

in Icarus (2016)

About 2000 FUV spectra of different regions of Saturn's aurora, obtained with Cassini/UVIS from December 2007 to October 2014 have been examined. Two methods have been employed to determine the mean ... [more ▼]

About 2000 FUV spectra of different regions of Saturn's aurora, obtained with Cassini/UVIS from December 2007 to October 2014 have been examined. Two methods have been employed to determine the mean energy 〈E〉 of the precipitating electrons. The first is based on the absorption of the auroral emission by hydrocarbons and the second uses the ratio between the brightness of the Lyman-α line and the H2 total UV emission (Lyα/H2), which is directly related to 〈E〉 via a radiative transfer formalism. In addition, two atmospheric models obtained recently from UVIS polar occultations have been employed for the first time. It is found that the atmospheric model related to North observations near 70° latitude provides the results most consistent with constraints previously published. On a global point of view, the two methods provide comparable results, with 〈E〉 mostly in the 7–17 keV range with the hydrocarbon method and 〈E〉 in the 1–11 keV range with the Lyα/H2 method. Since hydrocarbons have been detected on ∼20% of the auroral spectra, the Lyα/H2 technique is more effective to describe the primary auroral electrons, as it is applicable to all spectra and allows an access to the lowest range of energies (≤5 keV), unreachable by the hydrocarbon method. The distribution of 〈E〉 is found fully compatible with independent HST/ACS constraints (emission peak in the 840–1450 km range) and FUSE findings (emission peaking at pressure level ≤0.2 µbar). In addition, 〈E〉 exhibits enhancements in the 3 LT–10 LT sector, consistent with SKR intensity measurements. An energy flux–electron energy diagram built from all the data points strongly suggests that acceleration by field-aligned potentials as described by Knight's theory is a main mechanism responsible for electron precipitation creating the aurora. Assuming a fixed electron temperature of 0.1 keV, a best-fit equatorial electron source population density of 3 × 103 m−3 is derived, which matches very well to the plasma properties observed with Cassini MAG and CAPS/ELS instruments. However, several auroral regions are characterized by relatively high 〈E〉 and low energy flux, suggesting that additional processes such as plasma injections or magnetic reconnections must be accounted for to explain the emission in these regions. The Lyα/H2 ratio technique can be used to build maps of 〈E〉 from single spectral images. As expected, preliminary results show that the spatial distribution of 〈E〉 is not uniform, as seen on Jupiter. Our study reveals that a fraction of the aurora is due to very low energy electrons (<1 keV). Even in this case, comparisons between observed and modeled spectra show that 100 eV is a suitable value to represent the average energy of the secondary electrons. [less ▲]

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See detailThe compositional evolution of C/2012 S1 (ISON) from ground-based high-resolution infrared spectroscopy as part of a worldwide observing campaign
Dello Russo, N.; Vervack, R. J.; Kawakita, H. et al

in Icarus (2016), 266

Volatile production rates, relative abundances, rotational temperatures, and spatial distributions in the coma were measured in C/2012 S1 (ISON) using long-slit high-dispersion (λ/Δλ ∼ 2.5 × 10[SUP]4[/SUP ... [more ▼]

Volatile production rates, relative abundances, rotational temperatures, and spatial distributions in the coma were measured in C/2012 S1 (ISON) using long-slit high-dispersion (λ/Δλ ∼ 2.5 × 10[SUP]4[/SUP]) infrared spectroscopy as part of a worldwide observing campaign. Spectra were obtained on UT 2013 October 26 and 28 with NIRSPEC at the W.M. Keck Observatory, and UT 2013 November 19 and 20 with CSHELL at the NASA IRTF. H[SUB]2[/SUB]O was detected on all dates, with production rates increasing markedly from (8.7 ± 1.5) × 10[SUP]27[/SUP] molecules s[SUP]-1[/SUP] on October 26 (R[SUB]h[/SUB] = 1.12 AU) to (3.7 ± 0.4) × 10[SUP]29[/SUP] molecules s[SUP]-1[/SUP] on November 20 (R[SUB]h[/SUB] = 0.43 AU). Short-term variability of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O production is also seen as observations on November 19 show an increase in H[SUB]2[/SUB]O production rate of nearly a factor of two over a period of about 6 h. C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]6[/SUB], CH[SUB]3[/SUB]OH and CH[SUB]4[/SUB] abundances in ISON are slightly depleted relative to H[SUB]2[/SUB]O when compared to mean values for comets measured at infrared wavelengths. On the November dates, C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]2[/SUB], HCN and OCS abundances relative to H[SUB]2[/SUB]O appear to be within the range of mean values, whereas H[SUB]2[/SUB]CO and NH[SUB]3[/SUB] were significantly enhanced. There is evidence that the abundances with respect to H[SUB]2[/SUB]O increased for some species but not others between October 28 (R[SUB]h[/SUB] = 1.07 AU) and November 19 (R[SUB]h[/SUB] = 0.46 AU). The high mixing ratios of H[SUB]2[/SUB]CO/CH[SUB]3[/SUB]OH and C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]2[/SUB]/C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]6[/SUB] on November 19, and changes in the mixing ratios of some species with respect to H[SUB]2[/SUB]O between October 28 to November 19, indicates compositional changes that may be the result of a transition from sampling radiation-processed outer layers in this dynamically new comet to sampling more pristine natal material as the outer processed layer was increasingly eroded and the thermal wave propagated into the nucleus as the comet approached perihelion for the first time. On November 19 and 20, the spatial distribution for dust appears asymmetric and enhanced in the antisolar direction, whereas spatial distributions for volatiles (excepting CN) appear symmetric with their peaks slightly offset in the sunward direction compared to the dust. Spatial distributions for H[SUB]2[/SUB]O, HCN, C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]6[/SUB], C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]2[/SUB], and H[SUB]2[/SUB]CO on November 19 show no definitive evidence for significant contributions from extended sources; however, broader spatial distributions for NH[SUB]3[/SUB] and OCS may be consistent with extended sources for these species. Abundances of HCN and C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]2[/SUB] on November 19 and 20 are insufficient to account for reported abundances of CN and C[SUB]2[/SUB] in ISON near this time. Differences in HCN and CN spatial distributions are also consistent with HCN as only a minor source of CN in ISON on November 19 as the spatial distribution of CN in the coma suggests a dominant distributed source that is correlated with dust and not volatile release. The spatial distributions for NH[SUB]3[/SUB] and NH[SUB]2[/SUB] are similar, suggesting that NH[SUB]3[/SUB] is the primary source of NH[SUB]2[/SUB] with no evidence of a significant dust source of NH[SUB]2[/SUB]; however, the higher production rates derived for NH[SUB]3[/SUB] compared to NH[SUB]2[/SUB] on November 19 and 20 remain unexplained. This suggests a more complete analysis that treats NH[SUB]2[/SUB] as a distributed source and accounts for its emission mechanism is needed for future work. [less ▲]

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See detailSimultaneous multi-scale and multi-instrument observations of Saturn's aurorae during the 2013 observing campaign
Melin, H.; Badman, S.; Stallard, T. et al

in Icarus (2016)

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See detailSaturn’s auroral morphology and field-aligned currents during a solar wind compression
Badman, S.V.; Provan, G.; Bunce, E.J. et al

in Icarus (2016)

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See detailRecurrent pulsations in Saturn’s high latitude magnetosphere
Mitchell, D.G.; Carbary, J.F.; Bunce, E.J. et al

in Icarus (2016)

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See detailQuasi-periodic injections of relativistic electrons in Saturn's outer magnetosphere
Roussos, E.; Krupp, N.; Mitchell, D. G. et al

in Icarus (2016), 263

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See detailSPICAM observations and modeling of Mars aurorae
Soret, Lauriane ULg; Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg; Libert, Ludivine ULg et al

in Icarus (2016), 264

Martian aurorae have been detected with the SPICAM instrument on board Mars Express both in the nadir and the limb viewing modes. In this study, we focus on three limb observations to determine both the ... [more ▼]

Martian aurorae have been detected with the SPICAM instrument on board Mars Express both in the nadir and the limb viewing modes. In this study, we focus on three limb observations to determine both the altitudes and the intensities of the auroral emissions. The CO (a3P–X1R) Cameron bands between 190 and 270 nm, the CO Fourth Positive system (CO 4P) between 135 and 170 nm, the CO2+ doublet at 289 nm, the OI at 297.2 nm and the 130.4 nm OI triplet emissions have been identified in the spectra and in the time variations of the signals. The intensities of these auroral emissions have been quantified and the altitude of the strongest emission of the CO Cameron bands has been estimated to be 137 ± 27 km. The locations of these auroral events have also been determined and correspond to the statistical boundary of open-closed magnetic field lines, in cusp-like structures. The observed altitudes of the auroral emissions are reproduced by a Monte-Carlo model of electron transport in the Martian thermosphere for mono-energetic electrons between 40 and 200 eV. No correlation between electron fluxes measured in the upper thermosphere and nadir auroral intensity has been found. Here, we simulate auroral emissions observed both at the limb and at the nadir using electron energy spectra simultaneously measured with the ASPERA-3/ELS instrument. The simulated altitudes are in very good agreement with the observations. We find that predicted vertically integrated intensities for the various auroral emissions are overestimated, probably as a consequence of the inclination and curvature of the magnetic field line threading the aurora. However, the relative brightness of the CO and CO2+ emissions is in good agreement with the observations. [less ▲]

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See detailAn inversion method for cometary atmospheres
Hubert, Benoît ULg; Opitom, Cyrielle ULg; Hutsemekers, Damien ULg et al

in Icarus (2016), 277

Remote observation of cometary atmospheres produces a measurement of the cometary emissions integrated along the line of sight. This integration is the so-called Abel transform of the local emission rate ... [more ▼]

Remote observation of cometary atmospheres produces a measurement of the cometary emissions integrated along the line of sight. This integration is the so-called Abel transform of the local emission rate. The observation is generally interpreted under the hypothesis of spherical symmetry of the coma. Under that hypothesis, the Abel transform can be inverted. We derive a numerical inversion method adapted to cometary atmospheres using both analytical results and least squares fitting techniques. This method, derived under the usual hypothesis of spherical symmetry, allows us to retrieve the radial distribution of the emission rate of any unabsorbed emission, which is the fundamental, physically meaningful quantity governing the observation. A Tikhonov regularization technique is also applied to reduce the possibly deleterious effects of the noise present in the observation and to warrant that the problem remains well posed. Standard error propagation techniques are included in order to estimate the uncertainties affecting the retrieved emission rate. Several theoretical tests of the inversion techniques are carried out to show its validity and robustness. In particular, we show that the Abel inversion of real data is only weakly sensitive to an offset applied to the input flux, which implies that the method, applied to the study of a cometary atmosphere, is only weakly dependent on uncertainties on the sky background which has to be subtracted from the raw observations of the coma. We apply the method to observations of three different comets observed using the TRAPPIST telescope: 103P/ Hartley 2, F6/ Lemmon and A1/ Siding Spring. We show that the method retrieves realistic emission rates, and that characteristic lengths and production rates can be derived from the emission rate for both CN and C2 molecules. We show that the retrieved characteristic lengths can differ from those obtained from a direct least squares fitting over the observed flux of radiation, and that discrepancies can be reconciled for by correcting this flux by an offset (to which the inverse Abel transform is nearly not sensitive). The A1/Siding Spring observations were obtained very shortly after the comet produced an outburst, and we show that the emission rate derived from the observed flux of CN emission at 387 nm and from the C2 emission at 514.1 nm both present an easily-identifiable shoulder that corresponds to the separation between pre- and post-outburst gas. As a general result, we show that diagnosing properties and features of the coma using the emission rate is easier than directly using the observed flux, because the Abel transform produces a smoothing that blurs the signatures left by features present in the coma. We also determine the parameters of a Haser model fitting the inverted data and fitting the line-of-sight integrated observation, for which we provide the exact analytical expression of the line-of-sight integration of the Haser model. [less ▲]

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See detailCharacteristics of north jovian aurora from STIS FUV spectral images
Gustin, Jacques ULg; Grodent, Denis ULg; Ray, Licia et al

in Icarus (2016)

We analyzed two observations obtained in Jan. 2013, consisting of spatial scans of the jovian north ultraviolet aurora with the HST Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) in the spectroscopic mode ... [more ▼]

We analyzed two observations obtained in Jan. 2013, consisting of spatial scans of the jovian north ultraviolet aurora with the HST Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) in the spectroscopic mode. The color ratio (CR) method, which relates the wavelength-dependent absorption of the FUV spectra to the mean energy of the precipitating electrons, allowed us to determine important characteristics of the entire auroral region. The results show that the spatial distribution of the precipitating electron energy is far from uniform. The morning main emission arc is associated with mean energies of around 265 keV, the afternoon main emission (kink region) has energies near 105 keV, while the ‘flare’ emissions poleward of the main oval are characterized by electrons in the 50–85 keV range. A small scale structure observed in the discontinuity region is related to electrons of 232 keV and the Ganymede footprint shows energies of 157 keV. Interestingly, each specific region shows very similar behavior for the two separate observations. The Io footprint shows a weak but undeniable hydrocarbon absorption, which is not consistent with altitudes of the Io emission profiles (∼900 km relative to the 1 bar level) determined from HST-ACS observations. An upward shift of the hydrocarbon homopause of at least 100 km is required to reconcile the high altitude of the emission and hydrocarbon absorption. The relationship between the energy fluxes and the electron energies has been compared to curves obtained from Knight’s theory of field-aligned currents. Assuming a fixed electron temperature of 2.5 keV, an electron source population density of ∼800 m−3 and ∼2400 m−3 is obtained for the morning main emission and kink regions, respectively. Magnetospheric electron densities are lowered for the morning main emission (∼600 m−3) if the relativistic version of Knight’s theory is applied. Lyman and Werner H2 emission profiles, resulting from secondary electrons produced by precipitation of heavy ions in the 1–2 MeV/u range, have been applied to our model. The low CR obtained from this emission suggests that heavy ions, presumably the main source of the X-ray aurora, do not significantly contribute to typical UV high latitude emission. [less ▲]

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See detailIs the O2(a1Δg) Venus nightglow emission controlled by solar activity ?
Soret, Lauriane ULg; Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg

in Icarus (2015), 262

Several past studies showed that the O2(a1Δg) Venus nightglow emission at 1.27 μm is highly variable on a timescale of hours. We examine whether the intensity of this emission shows a more global trend ... [more ▼]

Several past studies showed that the O2(a1Δg) Venus nightglow emission at 1.27 μm is highly variable on a timescale of hours. We examine whether the intensity of this emission shows a more global trend linked to solar activity. [less ▲]

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See detailThe small binary asteroid (939) Isberga
Carry, B.; Matter, A.; Scheirich, P. et al

in Icarus (2015), 248

In understanding the composition and internal structure of asteroids, their density is perhaps the most diagnostic quantity. We aim here at characterizing the surface composition, mutual orbit, size, mass ... [more ▼]

In understanding the composition and internal structure of asteroids, their density is perhaps the most diagnostic quantity. We aim here at characterizing the surface composition, mutual orbit, size, mass, and density of the small main-belt binary asteroid (939) Isberga. For that, we conduct a suite of multi-technique observations, including optical lightcurves over many epochs, near-infrared spectroscopy, and interferometry in the thermal infrared. We develop a simple geometric model of binary systems to analyze the interferometric data in combination with the results of the lightcurve modeling. From spectroscopy, we classify Ibserga as a Sq-type asteroid, consistent with the albedo of 0.14<SUB>-0.06</SUB><SUP>+0.09</SUP> (all uncertainties are reported as 3-σ range) we determine (average albedo of S-types is 0.197 ± 0.153, see Pravec et al. (Pravec et al. [2012]. Icarus 221, 365-387). Lightcurve analysis reveals that the mutual orbit has a period of 26.6304 ± 0.0001 h, is close to circular (eccentricity lower than 0.1), and has pole coordinates within 7° of (225°, +86°) in Ecliptic J2000, implying a low obliquity of 1.5<SUB>-1.5</SUB><SUP>+6.0</SUP> deg . The combined analysis of lightcurves and interferometric data allows us to determine the dimension of the system and we find volume-equivalent diameters of 12.4<SUB>-1.2</SUB><SUP>+2.5</SUP> km and 3.6<SUB>-0.3</SUB><SUP>+0.7</SUP> km for Isberga and its satellite, circling each other on a 33 km wide orbit. Their density is assumed equal and found to be 2.91<SUB>-2.01</SUB><SUP>+1.72</SUP> gcm<SUP>-3</SUP> , lower than that of the associated ordinary chondrite meteorites, suggesting the presence of some macroporosity, but typical of S-types of the same size range (Carry [2012]. Planet. Space Sci. 73, 98-118). The present study is the first direct measurement of the size of a small main-belt binary. Although the interferometric observations of Isberga are at the edge of MIDI capabilities, the method described here is applicable to others suites of instruments (e.g., LBT, ALMA). [less ▲]

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See detailEvidence that Pluto's atmosphere does not collapse from occultations including the 2013 May 04 event
Olkin, C. B.; Young, L. A.; Borncamp, D. et al

in Icarus (2015), 246

Combining stellar occultation observations probing Pluto's atmosphere from 1988 to 2013, and models of energy balance between Pluto's surface and atmosphere, we find the preferred models are consistent ... [more ▼]

Combining stellar occultation observations probing Pluto's atmosphere from 1988 to 2013, and models of energy balance between Pluto's surface and atmosphere, we find the preferred models are consistent with Pluto retaining a collisional atmosphere throughout its 248-year orbit. The occultation results show an increasing atmospheric pressure with time in the current epoch, a trend present only in models with a high thermal inertia and a permanent N<SUB>2</SUB> ice cap at Pluto's north rotational pole. [less ▲]

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See detailThe binary near-Earth Asteroid (175706) 1996 FG3 - An observational constraint on its orbital evolution
Scheirich, P.; Pravec, P.; Jacobson, S. A. et al

in Icarus (2015), 245

Using our photometric observations taken between April 1996 and January 2013 and other published data, we derived properties of the binary near-Earth Asteroid (175706) 1996 FG<SUB>3</SUB> including new ... [more ▼]

Using our photometric observations taken between April 1996 and January 2013 and other published data, we derived properties of the binary near-Earth Asteroid (175706) 1996 FG<SUB>3</SUB> including new measurements constraining evolution of the mutual orbit with potential consequences for the entire binary asteroid population. We also refined previously determined values of parameters of both components, making 1996 FG<SUB>3</SUB> one of the most well understood binary asteroid systems. With our 17-year long dataset, we determined the orbital vector with a substantially greater accuracy than before and we also placed constraints on a stability of the orbit. Specifically, the ecliptic longitude and latitude of the orbital pole are 266 ° and - 83 ° , respectively, with the mean radius of the uncertainty area of 4 ° , and the orbital period is 16.1508 ± 0.0002 h (all quoted uncertainties correspond to 3σ). We looked for a quadratic drift of the mean anomaly of the satellite and obtained a value of 0.04 ± 0.20 deg /yr<SUP>2</SUP> , i.e., consistent with zero. The drift is substantially lower than predicted by the pure binary YORP (BYORP) theory of McMahon and Scheeres (McMahon, J., Scheeres, D. [2010]. Icarus 209, 494-509) and it is consistent with the tigidity and quality factor of μQ = 1.3 ×10<SUP>7</SUP> Pa using the theory that assumes an elastic response of the asteroid material to the tidal forces. This very low value indicates that the primary of 1996 FG<SUB>3</SUB> is a 'rubble pile', and it also calls for a re-thinking of the tidal energy dissipation in close asteroid binary systems. [less ▲]

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See detailLatitudinal structure of the Venus O2 infrared airglow: A signature of small-scale dynamical processes in the upper atmosphere
Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg; Soret, Lauriane ULg; Piccioni, Giuseppe et al

in Icarus (2014), 236

Images of the nightside limb of Venus have been obtained in the northern hemisphere with the VIRTIS multispectral infrared imager on board Venus Express between April 2006 and October 2008. We analyze the ... [more ▼]

Images of the nightside limb of Venus have been obtained in the northern hemisphere with the VIRTIS multispectral infrared imager on board Venus Express between April 2006 and October 2008. We analyze the latitudinal distribution of the O2(a1D) airglow limb profiles at 1.27 lm to characterize its distribution and variability. We show that the instantaneous structure of the emission is very different from the statistical global view of an enhanced emission near the equator, decreasing in brightness and slightly increasing in altitude toward the poles. The peak intensity of the limb profiles varies by a factor up to 50 between the brightest spots and the darkest regions. The bright airglow spots correspond to regions of enhanced downward flow of oxygen atoms originating from the dayside. Considerable variations in brightness and morphology are observed in the altitude–latitudinal distribution over a 24-h period. Analysis of the limb profiles indicates that secondary airglow peaks located at altitudes higher than the mean value of 96 km are observed on about 30% of the latitudinal cuts, but they are concentrated in narrow latitude areas extending over a few hundred kilometers. Most of them occur in transition regions between two altitude regimes in the 50 to 60 N region, possibly associated with the drop of the cloud top altitude observed equatorward of the ‘‘cold collar’’. We interpret these results as an indication that the strength of vertical transport in this mesosphere–thermosphere transition region is very variable both in location and time. This variability, also observed in nadir airglow images and wind measurements, is a key characteristic of the mesosphere–thermosphere transition region. It may be caused by fluctuations of the global day-to-night circulation generated by gravity waves. We show with a one dimensional model that local enhancements of eddy transport is a possibility. This variability is currently not accounted for by global circulation models that predict a single stable region of enhanced airglow in the vicinity of the antisolar point. [less ▲]

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