Just as the static on an AM radio grows louder with the approach of a summer lightning storm, strong radio emissions accompany bright auroral spots -- similar to Earths northern lights -- on the planet Saturn, according to a research paper published in the Thursday, Feb. 17 issue of the journal Nature.
William Kurth, research scientist in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy, says that the data was collected in early 2004, with NASAs Cassini spacecraft measuring the strength of Saturns solar wind and radio emissions and the Hubble Space Telescope taking pictures of Saturns aurora, or southern lights. The results also indicated that strong radio emissions grow stronger when the solar wind blows harder.
"We had expected that this might be the case, based on our understanding of auroral radio signals from Earths auroras, but this is the first time weve been able to compare Saturns radio emissions with detailed images of the aurora," Kurth says. "This is important to our on-going Cassini studies because this association allows us to have some idea of what the aurora are doing throughout the mission from our continuous radio observations."
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