Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

X-rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles

Date:
March 9, 2004
Source:
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
The first clear detection of X-rays from the giant, gaseous planet Saturn has been made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra's image shows that the X-rays are concentrated near Saturn's equator, a surprising result since Jupiter's X-ray emission is mainly concentrated near the poles.

Composite Chandra X-ray image and illustration of Saturn (NASA/Univ. of Hamburg/Ness et al.)

The first clear detection of X-rays from the giant, gaseous planet Saturn has been made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra's image shows that the X-rays are concentrated near Saturn's equator, a surprising result since Jupiter's X-ray emission is mainly concentrated near the poles. Existing theories cannot easily explain the intensity or distribution of Saturn's X-rays.

Chandra observed Saturn for about 20 hours in April of 2003. The spectrum, or distribution with energy of the X-rays, was found to be very similar to that of X-rays from the Sun.

"This indicates that Saturn's X-ray emission is due to the scattering of solar X-rays by Saturn's atmosphere," said Jan-Uwe Ness, of the University of Hamburg in Germany and lead author of a paper discussing the Saturn results in an upcoming issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics. "It's a puzzle, since the intensity of Saturn's X-rays requires that Saturn reflects X-rays fifty times more efficiently than the Moon."

The observed 90 megawatts of X-ray power from Saturn's equatorial region is roughly consistent with previous observations of the X-radiation from Jupiter's equatorial region. This suggests that both giant, gaseous planets reflect solar X-rays at unexpectedly high rates. Further observations of Jupiter will be needed to test this possibility.

The weak X-radiation from Saturn's south-polar region presents another puzzle (the north pole was blocked by Saturn's rings during this observation). Saturn's magnetic field, like that of Jupiter, is strongest near the poles. X-radiation from Jupiter is brightest at the poles because of auroral activity due to the enhanced interaction of high-energy particles from the Sun with its magnetic field. Since spectacular ultraviolet polar auroras have been observed to occur on Saturn, Ness and colleagues expected that Saturn's south pole might be bright in X-rays. It is not clear whether the auroral mechanism does not produce X-rays on Saturn, or for some reason concentrates the X-rays at the North Pole.

"Another interesting result of the observation is that Saturn's rings were not detected in X-rays," noted Scott Wolk of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, a coauthor of the paper. "This requires Saturn's rings to be less efficient at scattering X-rays than the planet itself."

The same team detected X-radiation from Saturn using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory. Although these observations could not locate the X-rays on Saturn's disk, the intensity of the observed X-rays was very similar to what was found with Chandra and consistent with a marginal detection of X-rays from Saturn reported in 2000 using the German Roentgensatellite (ROSAT).

The research team, which used Chandra's ACIS instrument to observed Saturn, also included J. Schmitt (Univ. of Hamburg) as well as Konrad Dennerl and Vadim Burwitz (Max Planck Institute, Garching Germany). NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Additional information and images are available at: http://chandra.harvard.edu

and

http://chandra.nasa.gov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "X-rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/03/040309073118.htm>.
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. (2004, March 9). X-rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/03/040309073118.htm
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "X-rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/03/040309073118.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins