Saturn's dayside ultraviolet auroras: Evidence for morphological dependence on the direction of the upstream interplanetary magnetic field
journal contributionposted on 13.10.2015, 14:57 by C. J. Meredith, I. I. Alexeev, S. V. Badman, E. S. Belenkaya, Stanley W. H. Cowley, M. K. Dougherty, V. V. Kalegaev, G. R. Lewis, J. D. Nichols
We examine a unique data set from seven Hubble Space Telescope (HST) “visits” that imaged Saturn's northern dayside ultraviolet emissions exhibiting usual circumpolar “auroral oval” morphologies, during which Cassini measured the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) upstream of Saturn's bow shock over intervals of several hours. The auroras generally consist of a dawn arc extending toward noon centered near ~15° colatitude, together with intermittent patchy forms at ~10° colatitude and poleward thereof, located between noon and dusk. The dawn arc is a persistent feature, but exhibits variations in position, width, and intensity, which have no clear relationship with the concurrent IMF. However, the patchy postnoon auroras are found to relate to the (suitably lagged and averaged) IMF Bz, being present during all four visits with positive Bz and absent during all three visits with negative Bz. The most continuous such forms occur in the case of strongest positive Bz. These results suggest that the postnoon forms are associated with reconnection and open flux production at Saturn's magnetopause, related to the similarly interpreted bifurcated auroral arc structures previously observed in this local time sector in Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph data, whose details remain unresolved in these HST images. One of the intervals with negative IMF Bz however exhibits a prenoon patch of very high latitude emission extending poleward of the dawn arc to the magnetic/spin pole, suggestive of the occurrence of lobe reconnection. Overall, these data provide evidence of significant IMF dependence in the morphology of Saturn's dayside auroras.