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 Nanostructures taste the rainbow
29.06.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions
28.06.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: Making Waves

Computer scientists use wave packet theory to develop realistic, detailed water wave simulations in real time. Their results will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference.

Think about the last time you were at a lake, river, or the ocean. Remember the ripples of the water, the waves crashing against the rocks, the wake following...

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanostructures taste the rainbow

29.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique unveils 'matrix' inside tissues and tumors

29.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Cystic fibrosis alters the structure of mucus in airways

29.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>