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    Electron heating at Saturn's bow shock

    Masters, Adam and Schwartz, S.J. and Henley, E.M. and Thomsen, M.F. and Zieger, B. and Coates, Andrew J. and Achilleos, Nick and Mitchell, J. and Hansen, K.C. and Dougherty, M.K. (2011) Electron heating at Saturn's bow shock. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 116 (A10), ISSN 0148-0227.

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    Collisionless shock waves are a widespread phenomenon in both solar system and astrophysical contexts. The nature of energy dissipation at such shocks is of particular interest, especially at high Mach numbers. We use data taken by the Cassini spacecraft to investigate electron heating at Saturn's bow shock, one of the strongest collisionless shocks encountered by spacecraft to date. Measurements of the upstream solar wind ion parameters are scarce due to spacecraft pointing constraints and the absence of an upstream monitor. To address this, we use solar wind speed predictions from the Michigan Solar Wind Model. Since these model predictions are based on near-Earth solar wind measurements, we restrict our analysis to bow shock crossings made by Cassini within ±75 days of apparent opposition of Earth and Saturn. An analysis of the resulting set of 94 crossings made in 2005 and 2007 reveals a positive correlation between the electron temperature increase across the shock and the kinetic energy of an incident proton, where electron heating accounts for between ∼3% and ∼7% of this incident ram energy. This percentage decreases with increasing Alfvén Mach number, a trend that we confirm continues into the hitherto poorly explored high–Mach number regime, up to an Alfvén Mach number of ∼150. This work reveals that further studies of the Saturnian bow shock will bridge the gap between the more modest Mach numbers encountered in near-Earth space and more exotic astrophysical regimes where shock processes play central roles.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Saturn, bow shock, electron, heating
    School: School of Science > Earth and Planetary Sciences > UCL/Birkbeck Centre for Planetary Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2014 09:16
    Last Modified: 02 Dec 2014 09:16


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