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A dynamic, rotating ring current around Saturn

A dynamic, rotating ring current around Saturn

Publication date: 13 December 2007

Authors: Krimigis, S.M. et al.

Journal: Nature
Volume: 450
Issue: 7172
Page: 1050-1053
Year: 2007

Copyright: Nature Publishing Group

The concept of an electrical current encircling the Earth at high altitudes was first proposed in 1917 to explain the depression of the horizontal component of the Earth's magnetic field during geomagnetic storms. In situ measurements of the extent and composition of this current were made some 50 years later and an image was obtained in 2001. Ring currents of a different nature were observed at Jupiter and their presence inferred at Saturn. Here we report images of the ring current at Saturn, together with a day-night pressure asymmetry and tilt of the planet's plasma sheet, based on measurements using the magnetospheric imaging instrument (MIMI) on board Cassini. The ring current can be highly variable with strong longitudinal asymmetries that corotate nearly rigidly with the planet. This contrasts with the Earth's ring current, where there is no rotational modulation and initial asymmetries are organized by local time effects.

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