Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

X-ray emission from Saturn

08.03.2004


X-ray image of Saturn (in false colour)
Credit: Astronomy & Astrophysics


The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a space observatory dedicated to X-ray astronomy. Launched on July 23rd, 1999, this X-ray telescope is particularly dedicated to the observation of high-energy sources in the universe. It has also been used to study the following solar system objects: the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and even the Comet C/1999 S4 LINEAR.

Using Chandra, J.-U. Ness and his colleagues detected an unambiguous X-ray emission from the planet Saturn for the first time. A few years ago, a possible such emission was observed using ROSAT, but the present detection is the first certain one.

Ness and his team observed Saturn in April 2003 for about 20 hours. The picture below shows the X-ray image of Saturn that they obtained (in false colour). Each colour (RGB) corresponds to a different energy range of the observed X-rays. Beyond the X-ray detection from Saturn, this Chandra observation allowed the investigators to perform the first in-depth analysis of this emission. The same team also detected X-ray emissions from Saturn using the XMM-Newton Observatory. The observed signal was very similar to what was found with Chandra.



Besides Saturn, other bodies of the solar system, such as the Earth, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, comets, and Galilean satellites, emit X-rays. Depending upon the body, these emissions originate from different physical processes. One of the major processes occurs when these bodies scatter the solar X-rays produced by the hot, tenuous solar corona. For all terrestrial bodies that emit X-rays - that is, the Earth, the Moon, and Venus - this mechanism is the main production process of X-rays.

Spectral analysis of the X-rays detected from Saturn with Chandra shows that the signal looks remarkably like that of solar X-ray emissions. This indicates that Saturn’s X-ray emission originates from solar X-rays scattering in Saturn’s atmosphere, a result that is very surprising, as such a process has already been studied on the Moon and was not expected to be so efficient on Saturn.

In addition to the scattering of solar X-rays, on Earth, X-rays are also produced by the same mechanism that creates the aurorae in the polar regions. Aurorae are caused by solar wind electrons that enter the Earth’s atmosphere, thus resulting in these spectacular visible lights. At the same time, X-rays are also produced. The same mechanism has been found to exist on Jupiter: Jovian aurorae have been detected in the UV wavelengths, along with an associated X-ray emission. Saturn was also expected to emit X-rays in the polar region, since spectacular polar aurorae have been observed in the UV wavelengths.

With Chandra, J.-U. Ness and his colleagues were able to study for the very first time how the X-rays are distributed on Saturn’s disk, in order to look for polar X-ray emission. They found that the observed X-ray emission appears to be concentrated around Saturn’s equator. Surprisingly, no auroral X-ray emission has been observed at all. However, the North Pole was occulted by Saturn’s rings and X-ray emission from northern polar regions may have been hidden.

Comparison between Saturn’s and Jupiter’s X-ray emissions shows that their X-ray production mechanisms are very different. First of all, the spatial distribution differs: on Jupiter, X-rays are concentrated in polar regions, suggesting that magnetic fields play an important role. Such a polar X-ray emission has not been found on Saturn, but cannot be excluded. Secondly, the X-ray flux on Saturn is significantly lower than that seen on Jupiter. Nonetheless, the emission level observed from Saturn is consistent with the X-ray equatorial emission from Jupiter, indicating that both emissions originate from similar processes. Ness and his colleagues point out that no single mechanism can easily account for the observed emissions; therefore, they expect combined mechanisms to be involved.

Thanks to the high-angular resolution of the Chandra Observatory, the new detection of X-ray emissions from Saturn, as well as recent results on the same subject from Jupiter, will allow for important progress in the observations of X-rays on giant planets.

Jennifer Martin | Astronomy & Astrophysics
Further information:
http://www.edpsciences.org/papers/aa/pdf/press-releases/PR20030736.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary
21.09.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht First users at European XFEL
21.09.2017 | European XFEL GmbH

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: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>