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 Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Seeing the quantum future... literally
16.01.2017 | University of Sydney

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: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>