Source: NASA News
Artist's concept of the magnetic connection between Saturn and its moon Enceladus. Image credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/University of Colorado/Central Arizona College/SSI
NASA is releasing the first images and sounds of an electrical connection between Saturn and one of its moons. The data collected by the agency's Cassini spacecraft enable scientists to improve their understanding of the complex web of interaction between the planet and its numerous moons. The results of the data analysis are published in the journals Nature and Geophysical Research Letters.
Scientists previously theorized an electrical circuit should exist at Saturn. After analyzing data that Cassini collected in 2008, scientists saw a glowing patch of ultraviolet light emissions near Saturn's north pole that marked the presence of a circuit, even though the moon is 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) away from the planet.
The patch occurs at the end of a magnetic field line connecting Saturn and its moon Enceladus. The area, known as an auroral footprint, is the spot where energetic electrons dive into the planet's atmosphere, following magnetic field lines that arc between the planet's north and south polar regions. (read more)