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The auroral footprint of Enceladus on Saturn

The auroral footprint of Enceladus on Saturn

Publication date: 22 April 2011

Authors: Pryor, W.R., et al.

Journal: Nature
Volume: 472
Issue: 7343
Page: 331-333
Year: 2011

Copyright: Nature Publishing Group

Although there are substantial differences between the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, it has been suggested that cryovolcanic activity at Enceladus could lead to electrodynamic coupling between Enceladus and Saturn like that which links Jupiter with Io, Europa and Ganymede. Powerful field-aligned electron beams associated with the Io-Jupiter coupling, for example, create an auroral footprint in Jupiter's ionosphere. Auroral ultraviolet emission associated with Enceladus-Saturn coupling is anticipated to be just a few tenths of a kilorayleigh, about an order of magnitude dimmer than Io's footprint and below the observable threshold, consistent with its non-detection. Here we report the detection of magnetic-field-aligned ion and electron beams (offset several moon radii downstream from Enceladus) with sufficient power to stimulate detectable aurora, and the subsequent discovery of Enceladus-associated aurora in a few per cent of the scans of the moon's footprint. The footprint varies in emission magnitude more than can plausibly be explained by changes in magnetospheric parameters - and as such is probably indicative of variable plume activity.

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