Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Long-sought connection found between Saturn’s aurora and puzzling radio pulses

05.08.2010
The ethereal ultraviolet glow, or aurora, that illuminates Saturn’s upper atmosphere near the planet’s poles is pulsing, recent observations show. What’s more, the glow waxes and wanes in conjunction with perplexing radio emissions that also emanate from the ringed planet.

For years, scientists have puzzled over inexplicable variations in the timing of those radio pulsations. Now, the new-found aurora behaviour may offer a vital clue to what is going on.

“This is an important discovery because it provides a long-suspected, but hitherto missing, link between the radio and auroral emissions,” said Jonathan Nichols, a physics and astronomy researcher at the University of Leicester who led the study.

Saturn, like other magnetized planets, emits radio waves into space from the polar regions. These radio emissions pulse with a period near to 11 hours, and the timing of the pulses was originally thought to represent the rotation of the planet. However, over the years since the Voyager satellite missions, which flew past Saturn in 1980 and 1981, the period of the pulsing of the radio emissions has varied. Since the rotation of a planet cannot be easily sped up or slowed down, the hunt for the source of the varying radio period has become one of the most perplexing puzzles in planetary science.

Now, in a paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, the researchers use images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of Saturn’s auroras obtained between 2005-2009 to show that the auroras pulse in tandem with the radio emissions.

Auroras, known as the northern and southern lights on Earth, are caused when charged particles in space are funnelled along a planet’s magnetic field into the planet’s upper atmosphere near the poles, whereupon they impact the atmosphere, causing them to glow. This happens when a planet’s magnetic field is stressed by, for example, the buffeting from the stream of particles emitted by the Sun, or when moons such as Enceladus or Io expel material into the near-planet space.

Saturn’s radio waves were long suspected to be emitted by the charged particles as they hurtle toward the poles, but no radio-like pulsing had been observed in Saturn’s aurora.

However, Nichols and his colleagues found that by using the timing of the radio pulses as a guide to organizing auroral data, and by stacking the results from all the Hubble Saturn auroral images from 2005-2009 on top of each other, the auroral pulses finally revealed themselves.

“This link is important since it implies that the pulsing of the radio emissions is being imparted by the processes driving Saturn’s aurora, which in turn can be studied by the NASA/ESA spacecraft Cassini, presently in orbit around Saturn,” Nichols said. “It thus takes us a significant step toward solving the mystery of the variable radio period.”

Title:
“Variation of Saturn's UV aurora with SKR phase”
Author:
J. D. Nichols, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
Contact information for the author:
Dr Jonathan Nichols, University of Leicester Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group, +44 (0)116 252 5049, jdn@ion.le.ac.uk

Kathleen O’Neil | University of Leicester
Further information:
http://www.le.ac.uk
http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2010/2010-21.shtml

Further reports about: Geophysical Hubble Long-sought NASA/ESA Saturn Saturn’s Space magnetic field polar region radio waves

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope
13.12.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure
13.12.2017 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>