Extraordinary field-aligned current signatures in Saturn's high-latitude magnetosphere: Analysis of Cassini data during Revolution 89

[1] During the periapsis pass of Revolution 89, specifically on day 291 of 2008, the Cassini spacecraft observed unusual field-aligned current signatures in Saturn's high-latitude southern hemisphere in the midnight and dawn sector. The region of open field lines was found to be contracted close to the pole, and surrounded by an unusual region containing hot keV electrons and ‘leading’ field signatures indicative of super-corotating flow. Usual ‘lagging’ fields indicative of sub-corotating flow were also present at lower latitudes, though of unusual strength. Unique within the ∼40 similar nightside auroral region Cassini passes during 2008, the overall field-aligned current system thus consisted of a central region of downward current flanked by two regions of upward current. This distinctive signature coincided with the first in situ encounter of Cassini with a source region of Saturn kilometric radiation, located within the unusual poleward region of upward current adjacent to the open-closed field line boundary. We propose that these unusual conditions relate to a major open flux closure event in Saturn's tail, possibly triggered by solar wind compression of the magnetosphere.

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