Internally driven large-scale changes in the size of Saturn's magnetosphere.
ABSTRACT: Saturn's magnetic field acts as an obstacle to solar wind flow, deflecting plasma around the planet and forming a cavity known as the magnetosphere. The magnetopause defines the boundary between the planetary and solar dominated regimes, and so is strongly influenced by the variable nature of pressure sources both outside and within. Following from Pilkington et al. (2014), crossings of the magnetopause are identified using 7 years of magnetic field and particle data from the Cassini spacecraft and providing unprecedented spatial coverage of the magnetopause boundary. These observations reveal a dynamical interaction where, in addition to the external influence of the solar wind dynamic pressure, internal drivers, and hot plasma dynamics in particular can take almost complete control of the system's dayside shape and size, essentially defying the solar wind conditions. The magnetopause can move by up to 10-15 planetary radii at constant solar wind dynamic pressure, corresponding to relatively "plasma-loaded" or "plasma-depleted" states, defined in terms of the internal suprathermal plasma pressure.
Project description:We report on the first analysis of magnetospheric cusp observations at Saturn by multiple in situ instruments onboard the Cassini spacecraft. Using this we infer the process of reconnection was occurring at Saturn's magnetopause. This agrees with remote observations that showed the associated auroral signatures of reconnection. Cassini crossed the northern cusp around noon local time along a poleward trajectory. The spacecraft observed ion energy-latitude dispersions-a characteristic signature of the terrestrial cusp. This ion dispersion is "stepped," which shows that the reconnection is pulsed. The ion energy-pitch angle dispersions suggest that the field-aligned distance from the cusp to the reconnection site varies between ?27 and 51 R S . An intensification of lower frequencies of the Saturn kilometric radiation emissions suggests the prior arrival of a solar wind shock front, compressing the magnetosphere and providing more favorable conditions for magnetopause reconnection.We observe evidence for reconnection in the cusp plasma at SaturnWe present evidence that the reconnection process can be pulsed at SaturnSaturn's cusp shows similar characteristics to the terrestrial cusp.
Project description:The interaction between Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind results in the formation of a collisionless bow shock 60,000-100,000?km upstream of our planet, as long as the solar wind fast magnetosonic Mach (hereafter Mach) number exceeds unity. Here, we present one of those extremely rare instances, when the solar wind Mach number reached steady values <1 for several hours on 17 January 2013. Simultaneous measurements by more than ten spacecraft in the near-Earth environment reveal the evanescence of the bow shock, the sunward motion of the magnetopause and the extremely rapid and intense loss of electrons in the outer radiation belt. This study allows us to directly observe the state of the inner magnetosphere, including the radiation belts during a type of solar wind-magnetosphere coupling which is unusual for planets in our solar system but may be common for close-in extrasolar planets.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the dominant process by which solar wind plasma enters the magnetosphere. However, for periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) reconnection is less likely at the dayside magnetopause, and Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (KHWs) may be important agents for plasma entry and for the excitation of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves. The relative importance of KHWs is controversial because no statistical data on their occurrence frequency exist. Here we survey 7 years of in situ data from the NASA THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macro scale Interactions during Substorms) mission and find that KHWs occur at the magnetopause ?19% of the time. The rate increases with solar wind speed, Alfven Mach number and number density, but is mostly independent of IMF magnitude. KHWs may thus be more important for plasma transport across the magnetopause than previously thought, and frequently drive magnetospheric ULF waves.
Project description:Mercury's solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field environment is highly dynamic, and variations in these external conditions directly control the current systems and magnetic fields inside the planetary magnetosphere. We update our previous static model of Mercury's magnetic field by incorporating variations in the magnetospheric current systems, parameterized as functions of Mercury's heliocentric distance and magnetic activity. The new, dynamic model reproduces the location of the magnetopause current system as a function of systematic pressure variations encountered during Mercury's eccentric orbit, as well as the increase in the cross-tail current intensity with increasing magnetic activity. Despite the enhancements in the external field parameterization, the residuals between the observed and modeled magnetic field inside the magnetosphere indicate that the dynamic model achieves only a modest overall improvement over the previous static model. The spatial distribution of the residuals in the magnetic field components shows substantial improvement of the model accuracy near the dayside magnetopause. Elsewhere, the large-scale distribution of the residuals is similar to those of the static model. This result implies either that magnetic activity varies much faster than can be determined from the spacecraft's passage through the magnetosphere or that the residual fields are due to additional external current systems not represented in the model or both. Birkeland currents flowing along magnetic field lines between the magnetosphere and planetary high-latitude regions have been identified as one such contribution.
Project description:Extended periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) lead to the formation of a cold, dense plasma sheet due to the entry of solar wind plasma into the magnetosphere. Identifying the paths that the solar wind takes to enter the magnetosphere, and their relative importance has remained elusive. Any theoretical model of entry must satisfy observational constraints, such as the overall entry rate and the dawn-dusk asymmetry observed in the cold, dense plasma sheet. We model, using a combination of global magnetohydrodynamic and test particle simulations, solar wind ion entry into the magnetosphere during northward IMF and compare entry facilitated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability to cusp reconnection. For Kelvin-Helmholtz entry we reproduce transport rates inferred from observation and kinetic modeling and find that intravortex reconnection creates buoyant flux tubes, which provides, through interchange instability, a mechanism of filling the central plasma sheet with cold magnetosheath plasma. For cusp entry we show that an intrinsic dawn-dusk asymmetry is created during entry that is the result of alignment of the westward ion drift with the dawnward electric field typically observed during northward IMF. We show that both entry mechanisms provide comparable mass but affect entering plasma differently. The flank-entering plasma is cold and dawn-dusk symmetric, whereas the cusp-entering plasma is accelerated and preferentially deflected toward dawn. The combined effect of these entry mechanisms results in a plasma sheet population that exhibits dawn-dusk asymmetry in the manner that is seen in nature: a two-component (hot and cold) dusk flank and hotter, broadly peaked dawn population.
Project description:Abstract In this study, the ion composition of flux transfer events (FTEs) observed within the magnetosheath proper is examined. These FTEs were observed just upstream of the Earth's postnoon magnetopause by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft constellation. The minor ion characteristics are described using energy spectrograms, flux distributions, and ion moments as the constellation encountered each FTE. In conjunction with electron data and magnetic field observations, such observations provide important contextual information on the formation, topologies, and evolution of FTEs. In particular, minor ions, when combined with the field?aligned streaming of electrons, are reliable indicators of FTE topology. The observations are also placed (i) in context of the solar wind magnetic field configuration, (ii) the connection of the sampled flux tube to the ionosphere, and (iii) the location relative to the modeled reconnection line at the magnetopause. While protons and alpha particles were often depleted within the FTEs relative to the surrounding magnetosheath plasma, the He+ and O+ populations showed clear enhancements either near the center or near the edges of the FTE, and the bulk plasma flow directions are consistent with magnetic reconnection northward of the spacecraft and convection from the dayside toward the flank magnetopause. Key Points Long?duration magnetosheath FTEs observed under at postnoon local times and under similar solar wind conditions are compared and contrasted Minor ions from the magnetosphere are observed at higher energies at the edges than at the center of the FTEs The cores of the magnetosheath FTEs are on closed field lines
Project description:Saturn's polar stratosphere exhibits the seasonal growth and dissipation of broad, warm vortices poleward of ~75° latitude, which are strongest in the summer and absent in winter. The longevity of the exploration of the Saturn system by Cassini allows the use of infrared spectroscopy to trace the formation of the North Polar Stratospheric Vortex (NPSV), a region of enhanced temperatures and elevated hydrocarbon abundances at millibar pressures. We constrain the timescales of stratospheric vortex formation and dissipation in both hemispheres. Although the NPSV formed during late northern spring, by the end of Cassini's reconnaissance (shortly after northern summer solstice), it still did not display the contrasts in temperature and composition that were evident at the south pole during southern summer. The newly formed NPSV was bounded by a strengthening stratospheric thermal gradient near 78°N. The emergent boundary was hexagonal, suggesting that the Rossby wave responsible for Saturn's long-lived polar hexagon-which was previously expected to be trapped in the troposphere-can influence the stratospheric temperatures some 300?km above Saturn's clouds.
Project description:Quark nuggets are theoretical objects composed of approximately equal numbers of up, down, and strange quarks and are also called strangelets and nuclearites. They have been proposed as a candidate for dark matter, which constitutes ~85% of the universe's mass and which has been a mystery for decades. Previous efforts to detect quark nuggets assumed that the nuclear-density core interacts directly with the surrounding matter so the stopping power is minimal. Tatsumi found that quark nuggets could well exist as a ferromagnetic liquid with a ~1012-T magnetic field. We find that the magnetic field produces a magnetopause with surrounding plasma, as the earth's magnetic field produces a magnetopause with the solar wind, and substantially increases their energy deposition rate in matter. We use the magnetopause model to compute the energy deposition as a function of quark-nugget mass and to analyze testing the quark-nugget hypothesis for dark matter by observations in air, water, and land. We conclude the water option is most promising.
Project description:We present observations of significant dynamics within two UV auroral storms observed on Saturn using the Hubble Space Telescope in April/May 2013. Specifically, we discuss bursts of auroral emission observed at the poleward boundary of a solar wind-induced auroral storm, propagating at ?330% rigid corotation from near ?01?h LT toward ?08?h LT. We suggest that these are indicative of ongoing, bursty reconnection of lobe flux in the magnetotail, providing strong evidence that Saturn's auroral storms are caused by large-scale flux closure. We also discuss the later evolution of a similar storm and show that the emission maps to the trailing region of an energetic neutral atom enhancement. We thus identify the auroral form with the upward field-aligned continuity currents flowing into the associated partial ring current.
Project description:The abrupt boundary between a magnetosphere and the surrounding plasma, the magnetopause, has long been known to support surface waves. It was proposed that impulses acting on the boundary might lead to a trapping of these waves on the dayside by the ionosphere, resulting in a standing wave or eigenmode of the magnetopause surface. No direct observational evidence of this has been found to date and searches for indirect evidence have proved inconclusive, leading to speculation that this mechanism might not occur. By using fortuitous multipoint spacecraft observations during a rare isolated fast plasma jet impinging on the boundary, here we show that the resulting magnetopause motion and magnetospheric ultra-low frequency waves at well-defined frequencies are in agreement with and can only be explained by the magnetopause surface eigenmode. We therefore show through direct observations that this mechanism, which should impact upon the magnetospheric system globally, does in fact occur.