Aurorae are caused when charged particles stream along the magnetic field of a planet and into its atmosphere. On Earth these charged particles come from the solar wind – a stream of particles that emanates from the Sun. Variations in the Sun control the frequency and intensity of these beautiful displays that can also herald problems – such as interference with satellite communications and power distribution.
On Jupiter however, the dominant source of particles is its own moons, particularly Io which throws out roughly one tonne of volcanic material every second. Some of this becomes ionised (plasma) and is pulled in Jupiter’s magnetic field. It co-rotates in a plasma sheet around the planet, but as the particles spread out the magnetic field weakens and this breaks down causing the particles to crash into Jupiter’s atmosphere creating an aurora.
On Saturn, whilst one aurora had been observed, the primary source of the particles was unclear. RCUK Academic Fellow Tom Stallard, of the University of Leicester explains “At Saturn, scientists were unsure whether the aurora was caused by the solar wind or by particles from its own system. When we discovered the second zone of aurorae on Saturn, we realised this aurora, unlike the one already seen on Saturn, was behaving in the same way as Jupiter’s, largely unaffected by the solar wind, dominated by the rotation of the planet.”
Modelling the aurorae on Jupiter and Saturn shows that both exhibit aurora in the positions where the co-rotation between the planet and its plasma sheet breaks down.
Stan Cowley of the University of Leicester said, “We can now say that some of Saturn’s aurorae are like Jupiter’s and they have a common formation process. Further, our discovery of the secondary aurora on Saturn suggests that we shall also find one on Jupiter within its polar region.”
This research is drawn from data collected by NASA’s InfraRed Telescope Facility. Saturn’s main aurora has been studied using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The UK researchers have been funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council and Research Councils UK.
Julia Short | alfa
Could a particle accelerator using laser-driven implosion become a reality?
24.05.2018 | Osaka University
One-way roads for spin currents
23.05.2018 | Singapore University of Technology and Design
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2018 | Health and Medicine
24.05.2018 | Life Sciences