The multiple spots of the Ganymede auroral footprint



[1] The interaction between the moons and the magnetosphere of giant planets sometimes gives rise to auroral signatures in the planetary ionosphere, called the satellite footprints. So far, footprints have been detected for Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus. These footprints are usually seen as single spots. However, the Io footprint, the brightest one, displays a much more complex morphology made of at least three different spots and an extended tail. Here we present Hubble Space Telescope FUV images showing evidence for a second spot in the Ganymede footprint. The spots separation distance changes as Ganymede moves latitudinally in the plasma sheet, as is seen for the Io footprint. This indicates that the processes identified at Io are universal. Moreover, for similar Ganymede System III longitudes, the distance may also vary significantly with time, indicating changes in the plasma sheet density. We identified a rapid evolution of this distance ∼8 days after the detection of a volcanic outburst at Io, suggesting that such auroral observations could be used to estimate the plasma density variations at Ganymede.