Planetary radio astronomy: Earth, giant planets, and beyond
The magnetospheric phenomenon of non-thermal radio emission is known since the serendipitous discovery of Jupiter as radio planet in 1955, opening the new field of "Planetary Radio Astronomy". Continuous ground-based observations and, in particular, space-borne measurements have meanwhile produced a comprehensive picture of a fascinating research area. Space missions as the Voyagers to the Giant Planets, specifically Voyager 2 further to Uranus and Neptune, Galileo orbiting Jupiter, and now Cassini in orbit around Saturn since July 2004, provide a huge amount of radio data, well embedded in other experiments monitoring space plasmas and magnetic fields. The present paper as a condensation of a presentation at the Kleinheubacher Tagung 2013 in honour of the 100th anniversary of Prof. Karl Rawer, provides an introduction into the generation mechanism of non-thermal planetary radio waves and highlights some new features of planetary radio emission detected in the recent past.
As one of the most sophisticated spacecraft, Cassini, now in space for more than 16 years and still in excellent health, enabled for the first time a seasonal overview of the magnetospheric variations and their implications for the generation of radio emission. Presently most puzzling is the seasonally variable rotational modulation of Saturn kilometric radio emission (SKR) as seen by Cassini, compared with early Voyager observations.
The cyclotron maser instability is the fundamental mechanism under which generation and sufficient amplification of non-thermal radio emission is most likely. Considering these physical processes, further theoretical investigations have been started to investigate the conditions and possibilities of non-thermal radio emission from exoplanets, from potential radio planets in extrasolar systems.