Effects of differential rotation on the gravitational figures of Jupiter and Saturn

W. B. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


It is assumed that observed zonal currents in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn correspond to a state of permanent rotation, and that the angular velocity is constant on cylindrical surfaces parallel to the rotation axis. The equation of hydrostatic equilibrium for a rotating planet is solved under these restrictive assumptions, and the effect of the hypothesized rotation state on the planet's gravity harmonics and external shape is investigated. Spacecraft data on zonal currents are used to derive nearly model-independent corrections to the first four zonal gravity harmonic coefficients, which can be used to correct observed gravity harmonics to values appropriate for solid-body rotation. If the assumed rotation state is applicable, then zonal currents lead to measurable topography of isopycnic surfaces with respect to the reference fihure defined by the magnetospheric rotation period and the gravity harmonics. The amplitude of the topography is on the order of 5 km for Jupiter and 60 km for Saturn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-515
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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