Report

In situ measurements of Saturn’s ionosphere show that it is dynamic and interacts with the rings

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  11 Dec 2017:
eaao4134
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4134

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Abstract

The ionized upper layer of Saturn’s atmosphere, its ionosphere, provides a closure of currents mediated by the magnetic field to other electrically charged regions (e.g., rings) and hosts ion – molecule chemistry. In 2017, the Cassini spacecraft passed inside the planet’s rings, allowing in situ measurements of the ionosphere. The Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument detected a cold, dense and dynamic ionosphere at Saturn that interacts with the rings. Plasma densities reached up to 1000 cm−3 and electron temperatures were below 1160 K near closest approach. The density varied between orbits by up to 2 orders of magnitude. Saturn’s A- and B-rings cast a shadow on the planet that reduced ionization in the upper atmosphere, causing a North-South asymmetry.

View Full Text