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    Plasma in Saturn's nightside magnetosphere and the implications for global circulation

    McAndrews, H.J. and Thomsen, M.F. and Arridge, Chris S. and Jackman, C.M. and Wilson, R.J. and Henderson, M.G. and Tokar, R.L. and Khurana, K.K. and Sittler, E.C. and Coates, Andrew J. (2009) Plasma in Saturn's nightside magnetosphere and the implications for global circulation. Planetary and Space Science 57 (14-15), pp. 1714-1722. ISSN 0032-0633.

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    We present a bulk ion flow map from the nightside, equatorial region of Saturn's magnetosphere derived from the Cassini CAPS ion mass spectrometer data. The map clearly demonstrates the dominance of corotation flow over radial flow and suggests that the flux tubes sampled are still closed and attached to the planet up to distances of 50RS. The plasma characteristics in the near-midnight region are described and indicate a transition between the region of the magnetosphere containing plasma on closed drift paths and that containing flux tubes which may not complete a full rotation around the planet. Data from the electron spectrometer reveal two plasma states of high and low density. These are attributed either to the sampling of mass-loaded and depleted flux tubes, respectively, or to the latitudinal structure of the plasma sheet. Depleted, returning flux tubes are not, in general, directly observed in the ions, although the electron observations suggest that such a process must take place in order to produce the low-density population. Flux-tube content is conserved below a limit defined by the mass-loading and magnetic field strength and indicates that the flux tubes sampled may survive their passage through the tail. The conditions for mass-release are evaluated using measured densities, angular velocities and magnetic field strength. The results suggest that for the relatively dense ion populations detectable by the ion mass spectrometer (IMS), the condition for flux-tube breakage has not yet been exceeded. However, the low-density regimes observed in the electron data suggest that loaded flux tubes at greater distances do exceed the threshold for mass-loss and subsequently return to the inner magnetosphere significantly depleted of plasma.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Saturn, magnetospheric, ions, planetary wind, magnetotail
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Natural Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2011 13:20
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 16:55


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