PS Planetary and Solar System Sciences
The 2015 Division Outstanding Young Scientists Awards is awarded to Bertrand Bonfond for opening up new perspectives for the interpretation of the UV aurorae observations at Jupiter and, by extension, Saturn and other giant (exo)planets.
Bertrand Bonfond obtained his PhD with honours in 2009 at the Laboratoire de Physique Atmosphérique et Planétaire (Université de Liège, Belgium). He is currently holding a 3-year postdoctoral researcher position granted by the competitive Fonds de la Recheche Scientifique (Belgium). His areas of expertise include the analysis and interpretation of Jupiter’s ultraviolet auroral emissions observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. A large part of his research work made it possible to solve a three-decade-old mystery related to the auroral signature of the electromagnetic interaction between Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io. He demonstrated that the apparently disordered behaviour of the auroral footprint of Io in Jupiter’s ionosphere perfectly matched an ingenuous mechanism that he developed from theoretical considerations. Later, he was able to demonstrate that this mechanism also applies to the interaction between Jupiter and Ganymede, meaning that he had discovered a universal phenomenon. This mechanism is now widely accepted by the scientific community. More recently, Bonfond brought evidence of the unexpectedly large control of Jupiter’s magnetosphere by Io’s volcanic activity. He also demonstrated the very short quasi-periodic variability of Jupiter’s UV aurora. These new constraints are calling our current view of the auroral mechanisms into question and are opening new perspectives for the interpretation of the observed UV aurorae at Jupiter and, by extension, Saturn and other giant (exo)planets.