Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saturn's Skewed Ring Current

Date:
August 26, 2007
Source:
European Planetology Network
Summary:
Images taken by Cassini's Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) show that Saturn's ring current is a warped disc that balloons out of the equatorial plane on the planet's dayside and remains a thin disk that rises above the plane at larger distances on the nightside.

MIMI image showing the energetic neutral atom emission from Saturn’s ring current as the energetic ions charge exchange with the dense water products neutral cloud surrounding Saturn. The pronounced asymmetry (bright emission in the upper left quadrant, located between noon and dawn) rotates with the planet, and the bright spot will appear 180 away approximately 5..5 hours later.
Credit: NASA

Images taken by Cassini’s Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) show that Saturn’s ring current is a warped disc that balloons out of the equatorial plane on the planet’s dayside and remains a thin disk that rises above the plane at larger distances on the nightside.

Related Articles


Dr Stamatios "Tom" Krimigis, the Principal Investigator for the instrument, who is presenting images at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam on Thursday 23rd August, said, "Ring currents surround planets sort of like the brim of a hat.

Uniquely in Saturn’s case, that brim has been crushed at the front and tipped up at the back, so it’s pretty bent out of shape!"

The presence of a ring current around Saturn was first suggested in the early 1980s following magnetic anomalies observed by the Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Ring currents are also found around Earth and Jupiter. They are caused when plasma becomes trapped between mirror points on magnetic field lines, similar to the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth, and gradually drifts around the planet. The aggregate motion of all of the hot ions distributed around the equator generates an electric current.

On Saturn, the source of the plasma is material from the rings and gas vented by geysers on the moon Enceladus, which is subsequently ionized and accelerated. The MIMI images show that the ring current occupies a region of the equatorial plane between 540 000 kilometres and 1 080 000 kilometres from the centre of Saturn. They also show that Saturn’s ring current is persistently asymmetric (unlike Earth’s), and that the asymmetry rotates nearly rigidly with Saturn.

MIMI, which was developed by an international team led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland, has three distinct sensors that allow it to "visualize the invisible" and show the plasma and radiation belts in Saturn’s environment in an image. The MIMI instrument includes an Ion and Neutral Camera developed by APL, a spectrometer built by the University of Maryland, and a low energy particle detector developed by the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Sonnensystemforschung and a number of co-investigator institutions including CESR in Toulouse.

Ring currents

A ring current at Earth was proposed by Chapman and Ferraro in the 1930s to explain the decrease in the equatorial magnetic field during geomagnetic storms; the detailed nature in terms of composition and energy content was not determined until the mid-eighties by the Active Magnetospheric Particle Tracer Explorers (AMPTE) mission, a joint programme by the US, Germany and the UK. The Principal Investigator for the AMPTE mission was Dr Krimigis.

In the case of Earth, ionospheric sources dominate the formation of the ring current.

Jupiter’s ring current was first measured partially by Voyager. The Galileo mission to Jupiter added considerably to the understanding of Jupiter’s ring current, showing thatat Jupiter, Io’s volcanoes provide the gas that is subsequently ionized and accelerated


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Planetology Network. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Planetology Network. "Saturn's Skewed Ring Current." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824130101.htm>.
European Planetology Network. (2007, August 26). Saturn's Skewed Ring Current. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824130101.htm
European Planetology Network. "Saturn's Skewed Ring Current." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824130101.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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