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The Mystery of Jovian Irregular Satellites – Looking for Answers with SOFIA

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The composition and origin of the irregular Jovian satellites remain unclear. Their highly inclined, eccentric and mostly retrograde orbits indicate that they have not formed at their host planet. Although the exact mechanism is under debate, they must have been captured.

Constraining and analyzing their composition by means of remote sensing, in particular near-infrared spectroscopy, can play a crucial role to understand possible source regions of these bodies, reveal similarities and differences among dynamical groups and draw parallels to certain spectral types of asteroids. We have obtained low resolution (R=100) spectra from 0.65 to 2.55 µm for JVI Himalia, JVII Elara, JVIII Pasiphae and JXI Carme with SpeX on the NASA IRTF, significantly extending previously available data of these targets that belong to three different families. Upcoming observations of JVI Himalia with FLITECAM on SOFIA will provide spectral data between 2.6 to 3.5 µm. This data will be crucial to understand if some of these bodies have undergone aqueous alteration.

The talk will put our work in context of the currently known irregular satellite properties and conclude with an overview of SOFIA's unique capabilities and currently available instruments from a planetary science perspective.

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