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Icy Moon Zaps Saturn with Electron Beams...

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posted on Apr, 20 2011 @ 02:25 PM

Hopkins APL Camera Captures Auroral Activity Between Enceladus and Saturn

Scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission – now in its sixth year of operations at Saturn – have discovered an electrical current running between Saturn and its moon Enceladus that creates an observable emission on the ringed planet.Don Mitchell, Cassini science team co-investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., first observed the current connection as a strong “bull’s-eye” emission in the middle of images snapped by the APL-built ion and neutral camera (INCA) on Cassini. “The ion beam seen by the camera appears at exceptionally high energy, between about 30,000 and 80,000 electron volts, surprising for an interaction with such a small moon,” says Mitchell, co-author of a paper on the research appearing in the April 21 issue of the journal Nature.

This artist's concept shows a glowing patch of ultraviolet light near Saturn's north pole that occurs at the “footprint” of the magnetic connection between Saturn and its moon Enceladus. The magnetic field lines and the footprint are not visible to the naked eye, but were detected by the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph and fields and particles instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The footprint, newly discovered by Cassini, marks the presence of an electrical circuit that connects Saturn with Enceladus and accelerates electrons and ions along the magnetic field lines. In this image, the footprint is in the white box marked on Saturn, with the magnetic field lines in white and purple.

This planet-moon connection also happens at Jupiter; Io, Europa and Ganymede all produce visible auroral footprints. “Accurately identifying the magnetospheric location of a source of auroral emission is very exciting,” says APL’s Chris Paranicas, a Cassini scientist not directly involved with the study. “At Jupiter, the identification of the satellite footprints in the auroral region allowed scientists to connect the polar region with the equatorial one magnetically. This paper will give us a great reference point for future studies of Saturn’s aurora.”

The two images shown here were obtained by Cassini's ultraviolet imaging spectrograph on Aug. 26, 2008, separated by 80 minutes. The footprint moved according to changes in the position of Enceladus. In the image, the colors represent how bright the extreme ultraviolet emissions are. The lowest emission areas (one to two extreme ultraviolet counts per pixel) are in black/blue. The brightest emission areas (500 to 1,000 extreme ultraviolet counts per pixel) are in yellow/white.

“We searched for an auroral footprint on Saturn by using Cassini's ultraviolet spectrograph to make images,” explains Wayne Pryor, the other study lead, from Central Arizona College. “It turns out that ultraviolet light from the Enceladus footprint is not always visible; in fact, of 282 images that could include the signal, only seven provide convincing evidence for a bright spot.”


I a always amazed that they are still finding new thngs about our own solar system. That theres so little known about the area in which Earth exists. Sometimes it seems like they know more about the out universe then they do about our own planets...

posted on Apr, 20 2011 @ 05:30 PM
Science is I would say star and flag but I don't know how to flag

posted on Apr, 20 2011 @ 05:37 PM

Originally posted by DuceizBack
Science is I would say star and flag but I don't know how to flag

You can flag by clicking "Flag it" in the bottom left corner.

Interesting thread
Never knew a moon would be able to provide that type of energy and create an aurora. Makes me wonder...
edit on 20-4-2011 by Mista25 because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 20 2011 @ 05:48 PM
i instantly remembered the same connection between jupiter and its moons. glad to see it mentioned.

so does this happen due to those specific moon's characteristics? or its specific to gaseous planets and their respective moons?

this to ask, since we have a moon too, does earth experience the same phenomenon?

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