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Saturn's Nightside Dynamics During Cassini's F Ring and Proximal Orbits: Response to Solar Wind and Planetary Period Oscillation Modulations

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journal contribution
posted on 08.10.2021, 16:00 by TJ Bradley, SWH Cowley, EJ Bunce, H Melin, G Provan, JD Nichols, MK Dougherty, E Roussos, N Krupp, C Tao, L Lamy, WR Pryor, GJ Hunt
We examine the final 44 orbits of the Cassini spacecraft traversing the midnight sector of Saturn's magnetosphere to distances of ~21 Saturn radii, to investigate responses to heliospheric conditions inferred from model solar wind and Cassini galactic cosmic ray flux data. Clear storm responses to anticipated magnetospheric compressions are observed in magnetic field and energetic particle data, together with Saturn kilometric radiation (SKR), auroral hiss, and ultraviolet auroral emissions. Most compression events are associated with corotating interaction regions, producing ~2–3.5 day intervals of magnetospheric activity that are recurrent with the ~26 day solar rotation period (one or two such events per rotation), though one on the final pass is related to a nonrecurrent interplanetary shock possibly associated with an earlier X-class solar flare. The response to compressions is modulated by the concurrent relative phasing of the northern and southern planetary period oscillation (PPO) systems, with long (>1 planetary rotation) SKR low-frequency extension (LFE) intervals associated with strong field-aligned coupling currents being favored when the two PPO systems act together to thin and thicken the tail plasma sheet during each PPO cycle. LFE onsets/intensifications are then favored at thin plasma sheet phases most unstable to reconnection, producing energetic nightside particle injections and poleward contractions of dawn-brightened auroras. Correspondingly, solar rotation recurrent intervals of magnetospheric quiet conditions also occur with weak energetic particle fluxes and auroral emissions, associated with extended solar wind rarefactions. Overall, the results emphasize how strongly activity in Saturn's magnetosphere is modulated by concurrent heliospheric conditions.



Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics,125,e2020JA027907.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy


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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics






American Geophysical Union





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