Trapped Radiation Belts of Saturn: First Look

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Science  25 Jan 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4429, pp. 425-431
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4429.425


Pioneer 11 has made the first exploration of the magnetosphere and trapped radiation belts of Saturn. Saturn's magnetosphere is intermediate in size between Earth's and Jupiter's, with trapped particle intensities comparable to Earth's. The outer region of Saturn's magnetosphere contains lower energy radiation and is variable with time; the inner region contains higher energy particles. The pitch angle distributions show a remarkable variety of field-aligned and locally mirroring configurations. The moons and especially the rings of Saturn are effective absorbers of trapped particles; underneath the rings, the trapped radiation is completely absorbed. We confirm the discovery of a new ring, called the F ring, a new division, the Pioneer division, and a moon, called 1979 S 2. The latter has probably been seen from Earth. There may be evidence for more bodies like 1979 S 2, but at this stage the interpretation of the data is ambiguous. Using particle diffusion rates, we estimate that the cross-sectional area of the F ring is > 7 x 1013 square centimeters and that the opacity is > 10–5. Cosmic-ray albedo neutron decay should be looked into as a source of energetic particles in the inner magnetosphere of Saturn.

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