Cassini observations of Saturn's inner plasmasphere: Saturn orbit insertion results

E. C. Sittler, M. Thomsen, R. E. Johnson, R. E. Hartle, M. Burger, D. Chornay, M. D. Shappirio, D. Simpson, H. T. Smith, A. J. Coates, A. M. Rymer, D. J. McComas, D. T. Young, D. Reisenfeld, M. Dougherty, N. Andre

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We present new and definitive results of Cassini plasma spectrometer (CAPS) data acquired during passage through Saturn's inner plasmasphere by the Cassini spacecraft during the approach phase of the Saturn orbit insertion period. This analysis extends the original analysis of Sittler et al. [2005. Preliminary results on Saturn's inner plasmasphere as observed by Cassini: comparison with Voyager. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L14S07, doi:10.1029/2005GL022653] to L∼10 along with also providing a more comprehensive study of the interrelationship of the various fluid parameters. Coincidence data are sub-divided into protons and water group ions. Our revised analysis uses an improved convergence algorithm which provides a more definitive and independent estimate of the spacecraft potential ΦSC for which we enforce the protons and water group ions to co-move with each other. This has allowed us to include spacecraft charging corrections to our fluid parameter estimations and allow accurate estimations of fluctuations in the fluid parameters for future correlative studies. In the appendix we describe the ion moments algorithm, and minor corrections introduced by not weighting the moments with sinθ term in Sittler et al. [2005] (Correction offset by revisions to instruments geometric factor). Estimates of the spacecraft potential and revised proton densities are presented. Our total ion densities are in close agreement with the electron densities reported by Moncuquet et al. [2005. Quasi-thermal noise spectroscopy in the inner magnetosphere of Saturn with Cassini/RPWS: electron temperatures and density. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L20S02, doi:10.1029/2005GL022508] who used upper hybrid resonance (UHR) emission lines observed by the radio and plasma wave science (RPWS) instrument. We show a positive correlation between proton temperature and water group ion temperature. The proton and thermal electron temperatures track each with both having a positive radial gradient. These results are consistent with pickup ion energization via Saturn's rotational electric field. We see evidence for an anti-correlation between radial flow velocity VR and azimuthal velocity Vφ, which is consistent with the magnetosphere tending to conserve angular momentum. Evidence for MHD waves is also present. We show clear evidence for outward transport of the plasma via flux tube interchange motions with the radial velocity of the flow showing positive radial gradient with VR ∼ 0.12 (L / 4)5.5 km / s functional dependence for 4<L<10 (i.e., if we assume to be diffusive transport then DLL ∼ D0 L11 for fixed stochastic time step δt). Previous models with centrifugal transport have used DLL ∼ D0 L3 dependence. The radial transport seems to begin at Enceladus' L shell, L∼4, where we also see a minimum in the W+ ion temperature TW ∼ 35 eV. For the first time, we are measuring the actual flux tube interchange motions in the magnetosphere and how it varies with radial distance. These observations can be used as a constraint with regard to future transport models for Saturn's magnetosphere. Finally, we evaluate the thermodynamic properties of the plasma, which are all consistent with the pickup process being the dominant energy source for the plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1210
Number of pages14
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Magnetosphere
  • Planetary
  • Plasma
  • Saturn


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