Discovery of the mechanism behind the formation of auroras on Saturn

The formation of planetary auroras on saturn is linked to certain particular characteristics of the planet. Recently, space scientists from the University of Leicester discovered a mechanism that powers the aurora of this planet. In effect, Saturn represents the only planet where some auroras are produced both by atmospheric vortices and by the surrounding magnetosphere.

On other planets, including Earth, auroras are produced only by strong currents entering the atmosphere of the planet from the surrounding magnetosphere. Indeed, these currents can be caused by interactions with charged particles from the Sun, or by volcanic eruptions from the planet’s orbiting moons.

Nahid Chowdhurya doctoral student from the university of leicester working in the planetary science group of the school of physics and astronomy, is the author of the study. The results of his research have been published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The periodic characteristics specific to Saturn

When the probe NASA Cassini reached Saturn in 2004, it observed impulses radio in the planet’s atmosphere. Thus, she attempted to measure the rotational speed of Saturn. To their surprise, the researchers found that this speed seemed to have changed over the past two decades.

According to the researchers, this strange phenomenon is linked to the periodic properties of the planet. Indeed, the changes periodicals observed on the planet Sature are at the origin of the methodological effects. These are accompanied by several properties responsible for aurora formation.

In addition, this study identifies for the first time a mechanism fundamental in the high atmosphere of the planet which plays a role both in the observed planetary periodicity and in the formation of auroras.

The result of weather variations

Using the observatory Keck in Hawaiithe researchers were able to measure the radiation infrared of the high atmosphere of the gas giant. They also mapped the variation of ionospheric fluxes deep within the Saturn’s magnetosphere. The team found that most auroras from Saturn are produced by weather variations in the atmosphere.

Moreover, they think that the system is powered by the energy of the thermosphere of Saturnwith winds in the ionosphere observed between 0.3 and 3.0 kilometers per second.


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