Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Transient Radiation Belt Discovered Around Saturn

Date:
September 21, 2009
Source:
Europlanet Media Centre
Summary:
Scientists using the Cassini spacecraft's Magnetospheric Imaging instrument (MIMI) have detected a new, temporary radiation belt at Saturn, located around the orbit of its moon Dione at about 377,000 km from the center of the planet.

Radiation belt map of the ions with energies between 25-60 MeV, in Saturn's magnetosphere, based on several years of Cassini MIMI/LEMMS data. The structure of this radiation belt is almost perfectly stable for more than 5 years of Cassini observations, despite the intense variability of the radiation belts, outside the location of Tethys.
Credit: Image courtesy of Europlanet Media Centre

Scientists using the Cassini spacecraft's Magnetospheric Imaging instrument (MIMI) have detected a new, temporary radiation belt at Saturn, located around the orbit of its moon Dione at about 377,000 km from the center of the planet.

The discovery will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Elias Roussos on Monday 14 September.

Radiation belts, like Earth’s Van Allen belts, have been discovered at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. However, to date, it has only been possible to observe the variability of their intensity at Earth and Jupiter. Now that Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for more than five years, it has been possible to assess for the first time changes in Saturn’s radiation belts.

An international team of astronomers made the discovery analysing data from the MIMI’s LEMMS sensor, which measures the energy and angular distribution of charged particles in the magnetic bubble that surrounds Saturn.

“The most dramatic changes have been observed as sudden increases in the intensity of high energy charged particles in the inner part of Saturn's magnetosphere, in the vicinity of the moons Dione and Tethys," said Dr. Roussos. “These intensifications, which could create temporary satellite atmospheres around these moons, occurred three times in 2005 as a response to an equal number of solar storms that hit Saturn's magnetosphere and formed a new, temporary component to Saturn’s radiation belts," he added.

The new belt, which has been named “the Dione belt," was only detected by MIMI/LEMMS for a few weeks after each of its three appearances. The team believe that newly formed charged particles in the Dione belt were gradually absorbed by Dione itself and another nearby moon, named Tethys, which lies slightly closer to Saturn at an orbit of 295,000 km.

Unlike the Van Allen belts around the Earth, Saturn’s radiation belts inside the orbit of Tethys are very stable, showing negligible response to solar storm occurrences and no variability over the five years that they have been monitored by Cassini.

Interestingly, it was found that the transient Dione belt was only detected outside the orbit of Tethys. It appeared to be clearly separated from the inner belts by a permanent radiation gap all along the orbit of Tethys.

“Our observations suggest that Tethys acts as a barrier against inward transport of energetic particles and is shielding the planet’s inner radiation belts from solar wind influences. That makes the inner, ionic radiation belts of Saturn the most isolated magnetospheric structure in our solar system," said Dr Roussos.

The radiation belts within Tethys's orbit probably arise from the interaction of the planet’s main rings and atmosphere and galactic cosmic ray particles that, unlike the solar wind, have the very high energies needed to penetrate the innermost Saturnian magnetosphere. This means that the inner radiation belts will only vary if the cosmic ray intensities at the distance of Saturn change significantly.

However, as Dr. Roussos emphasised, “Outside the orbit of Tethys, the variability of Saturn's radiation belt might be enhanced in the coming years as we start approaching the solar maximum. If solar storms occur frequently in the new solar cycle, the Dione belt might become a permanent, although highly variable, component of Saturn's magnetosphere, which could affect significantly Saturn's global magnetospheric dynamics.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Europlanet Media Centre. "New Transient Radiation Belt Discovered Around Saturn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090914111821.htm>.
Europlanet Media Centre. (2009, September 21). New Transient Radiation Belt Discovered Around Saturn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090914111821.htm
Europlanet Media Centre. "New Transient Radiation Belt Discovered Around Saturn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090914111821.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — The three-man crew touched down in Kazakhstan Wednesday after more than five months of science experiments in orbit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
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