Magnetic reconnection within Saturn's magnetosphere
Artist's impression of a magnetic reconnection event detected by the international Cassini mission at Saturn. The orange curve is the bow shock formed by the solar wind (coming from the left side of the frame in this view) as it encounters Saturn's magnetosphere; the grey curve is the magnetopause, the boundary separating the magnetosphere (on its right) from the surrounding plasma; the blue lines are magnetic field lines in the planet's magnetosphere.
Data captured by two instruments on Cassini in 2008 revealed for the first time that a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection, which on Earth can disrupt GPS signals and damage electrical grids, can occur inside the magnetopause, in the magnetodisc of Saturn, the flattened distribution of plasma that surrounds the planet, and moreover on the Sun-facing side of Saturn. The finding is surprising as scientists previously thought that magnetic reconnection in the magnetodisc could only happen on the night side of planets, where the magnetic environment is weaker and more prone to disruption.