Dusty plasma in the vicinity of Enceladus
Publication date: 20 December 2011
Authors: Morooka, M. et al.
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Copyright: American Geophysical Union
We present in situ Cassini Radio Plasma Wave Science observations in the vicinity of Enceladus and in the E ring of Saturn that indicate the presence of dusty plasma. The four flybys of Enceladus in 2008 revealed the following cold plasma characteristics: (1) there is a large plasma density (both ions and electrons) within the Enceladus plume region, (2) no plasma wake effect behind Enceladus was detected, (3) electron densities are generally much lower than the ion densities in the E ring (ne/ni < 0.5) as well as in the plume (ne/ni < 0.01), and (4) the average bulk ion drift speed is significantly less than the corotation speed and is instead close to the Keplerian speed. These signatures result from half or more of the electrons being attached to dust grains and by the interaction between the surrounding cold plasma and the predominantly negatively charged submicrometer-sized dust grains. The dust and plasma properties estimated from the observations clearly show that the dust-plasma interaction is collective. This strong dust-plasma coupling appears not only in the Enceladus plume but also in the Enceladus torus, typically from about 20 RE (~5000 km) north and about 60 RE (~15,000 km) south of Enceladus. We also suggest that the dust-plasma interaction in the E ring is the cause of the planetary spin-modulated dynamics of Saturn's magnetosphere at large.Link to publication