Preliminary Results on the Plasma Environment of Saturn from the Pioneer 11 Plasma Analyzer Experiment

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Science  25 Jan 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4429, pp. 403-407
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4429.403


The Ames Research Center Pioneer 11 plasma analyzer experiment provided measurements of the solar wind interaction with Saturn and the character of the plasma environment within Saturn's magnetosphere. It is shown that Saturn has a detached bow shock wave and magnetopause quite similar to those at Earth and Jupiter. The scale size of the interaction region for Saturn is roughly one-third that at Jupiter, but Saturn's magnetosphere is equally responsive to changes in the solar wind dynamic pressure. Saturn's outer magnetosphere is inflated, as evidenced by the observation of large fluxes of corotating plasma. It is postulated that Saturn's magnetosphere may undergo a large expansion when the solar wind pressure is greatly diminished by the presence of Jupiter's extended magnetospheric tail when the two planets are approximately aligned along the same solar radial vector.