Publication archive

Publication archive

In August 2009 the Sun illuminated Saturn's rings from almost exactly edge-on, revealing a subtle corrugation that extends across the entire C ring. This corrugation's amplitude is 2 to 20 meters and its wavelength is 30 to 80 kilometers. Radial trends in the corrugation's wavelength indicate that this structure - like a similar corrugation previously identified in the D ring - results from differential nodal regression within a ring that became tilted relative to Saturn's equator plane in 1983. We suggest that this initial tilt arose because interplanetary debris struck the rings. The corrugation's radial extent implies that the impacting material was a dispersed cloud of debris instead of a single object, and the corrugation's amplitude indicates that the debris' total mass was ~1011 to 1013 kilograms.
Published: 07 May 2011
In August 2009 the Sun illuminated Saturn's rings from almost exactly edge-on, revealing a subtle corrugation that extends across the entire C ring. This corrugation's amplitude is 2 to 20 meters and its wavelength is 30 to 80 kilometers. Radial trends in the corrugation's wavelength indicate that this structure - like a similar corrugation previously identified in the D ring - results from differential nodal regression within a ring that became tilted relative to Saturn's equator plane in 1983. We suggest that this initial tilt arose because interplanetary debris struck the rings. The corrugation's radial extent implies that the impacting material was a dispersed cloud of debris instead of a single object, and the corrugation's amplitude indicates that the debris' total mass was ~1011 to 1013 kilograms.
Published: 07 May 2011
Mass outflows driven by stars and active galactic nuclei are a key element in many current models of galaxy evolution. They may produce the observed black hole-galaxy mass relation and regulate and quench both star formation in the host galaxy and black hole accretion. However, observational evidence of such feedback processes through outflows of the bulk of the star forming molecular gas is still scarce. Here we report the detection of massive molecular outflows, traced by the hydroxyl molecule (OH), in far-infrared spectra of ULIRGs obtained with Herschel-PACS as part of the SHINING key project. In some of these objects the (terminal) outflow velocities exceed 1000 km/s, and their outflow rates (up to ~1200 MSun/yr) are several times larger than their star formation rates. We compare the outflow signatures in different types of ULIRGs and in starburst galaxies to address the issue of the energy source (AGN or starburst) of these outflows. We report preliminary evidence that ULIRGs with a higher AGN luminosity (and higher AGN contribution to LIR) have higher terminal velocities and shorter gas depletion time scales. The outflows in the observed ULIRGs are able to expel the cold gas reservoirs from the centres of these objects within ~106-108 years.
Published: 05 May 2011
Published: 02 April 2011
We observed the near-Earth ASTEROID 2008 EV5 with the Arecibo and Goldstone planetary radars and the Very Long Baseline Array during December 2008. EV5 rotates retrograde and its overall shape is a 400 ± 50 m oblate spheroid. The most prominent surface feature is a ridge parallel to the asteroid's equator that is broken by a concavity about 150 m in diameter. Otherwise the asteroid's surface is notably smooth on decameter scales. EV5's radar and optical albedos are consistent with either rocky or stony-iron composition. The equatorial ridge is similar to structure seen on the rubble-pile near-Earth asteroid (66391) 1999 KW4 and is consistent with YORP spin-up reconfiguring the asteroid in the past. We interpret the concavity as an impact crater. Shaking during the impact and later regolith redistribution may have erased smaller features, explaining the general lack of decameter-scale surface structure.
Published: 01 May 2011
Electric currents permeate space plasmas and often have a significant component along the magnetic field to form magnetic flux ropes. A larger spatial perspective of these structures than from the direct observation along the satellite path is crucial in visualizing their role in plasma dynamics. For magnetic flux ropes that are approximately two-dimensional equilibrium structures on a certain plane, Grad-Shafranov reconstruction technique, developed by Bengt Sonnerup and his colleagues (see Sonnerup et al. in J. Geophys. Res. 111:A09204, 2006), can be used to reveal two-dimensional maps of associated plasma and field parameters. This review gives a brief account of the technique and its application to magnetic flux ropes near the Earth's magnetopause, in the solar wind, and in the magnetotail. From this brief survey, the ranges of the total field-aligned current and the total magnetic flux content for these magnetic flux ropes are assessed. The total field-aligned current is found to range from ~0.14 to ~9.7×104 MA, a range of nearly six orders of magnitude. The total magnetic flux content is found to range from ~0.25 to ~2.3×106 MWb, a range of nearly seven orders of magnitude. To the best of our knowledge, this review reports the largest range of both the total field-aligned current and the total magnetic flux content for magnetic flux ropes in space plasmas.
Published: 23 April 2011
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.
Published: 22 April 2011

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.

Published: 22 April 2011
We report in situ observations by the Cluster spacecraft of wave-particle interactions in a magnetic flux pileup region created by a magnetic reconnection outflow jet in Earth's magnetotail. Two distinct regions of wave activity are identified: lower-hybrid drift waves at the front edge and whistler-mode waves inside the pileup region. The whistler-mode waves are locally generated by the electron temperature anisotropy, and provide evidence for ongoing betatron energization caused by magnetic flux pileup. The whistler-mode waves cause fast pitch-angle scattering of electrons and isotropization of the electron distribution, thus making the flow braking process nonadiabatic. The waves strongly affect the electron dynamics and thus play an important role in the energy conversion chain during plasma jet braking.
Published: 19 April 2011
We present Cluster observations of a series of dipolarization fronts (DF 1 to 6) at the central current sheet in Earth's magnetotail. The velocities of fast earthward flow following behind each DF 1-3 are comparable to the Alfvén velocity, indicating that the flow bursts might have been generated by bursty reconnection that occurred tailward of the spacecraft. Based on multispacecraft timing analysis, DF normals are found to propagate mainly earthward at 160-335 km/s with a thickness of 900-1500 km, which corresponds to the ion inertial length or gyroradius scale. Each DF is followed by significant fluctuations in the x and y components of the magnetic field whose peaks are found 1-2 min after the DF passage. These (Bx, By) fluctuations propagate dawnward (mainly) and earthward. Strongly enhanced field-aligned beams are observed coincidently with (Bx, By) fluctuations, while an enhancement of cross-tail currents is associated with the DFs. From the observed pressure imbalance and flux tube entropy changes between the two regions separated by the DF, we speculate that interchange instability destabilizes the DFs and causes the deformation of the midtail magnetic topology. This process generates significant field-aligned currents and might power the auroral brightening in the ionosphere. However, this event is associated with neither the main substorm auroral breakup nor the poleward expansion, which might indicate that the observed multiple DFs have been dissipated before they reach the inner plasma sheet boundary.
Published: 14 April 2011
We provide a first look at the results of the Herschel Gould Belt survey toward the IC 5146 molecular cloud and present a preliminary analysis of the filamentary structure in this region. The column density map, derived from our 70-500 micron Herschel data, reveals a complex network of filaments and confirms that these filaments are the main birth sites of prestellar cores. We analyze the column density profiles of 27 filaments and show that the underlying radial density profiles fall off as r-1.5 to r-2.5 at large radii. Our main result is that the filaments seem to be characterized by a narrow distribution of widths with a median value of 0.10 ± 0.03 pc, which is in stark contrast to a much broader distribution of central Jeans lengths. This characteristic width of ~0.1 pc corresponds to within a factor of ~2 to the sonic scale below which interstellar turbulence becomes subsonic in diffuse gas, which supports the argument that the filaments may form as a result of the dissipation of large-scale turbulence.
Published: 14 April 2011

Published online in Science Express, 7 April 2011.

Initial images of Venus's South Pole by the Venus Express mission showed the presence of a bright, highly variable vortex, similar to that at the planet's North Pole. Using high-resolution infrared measurements of polar winds from the Venus Express's Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instrument, we show the vortex to have a constantly varying internal structure, with a centre of rotation displaced from the geographic South Pole by ~3 degrees of latitude, and which drifts around the pole with a period of 5 to 10 Earth days. This is indicative of a nonsymmetric and varying precession of the polar atmospheric circulation with respect to the planetary axis.

Published: 08 April 2011
We present deep Swift follow-up observations of a sample of 94 unidentified X-ray sources from the XMM-Newton Slew Survey. The X-ray Telescope (XRT) on-board Swift detected 29 per cent of the sample sources; the flux limits for undetected sources suggest the bulk of the Slew Survey sources are drawn from one or more transient populations. We report revised X-ray positions for the XRT-detected sources, with typical uncertainties of 2.9 arcsec, reducing the number of catalogued optical matches to just a single source in most cases. We characterize the sources detected by Swift through their X-ray spectra and variability and via Ultraviolet-Optical Telescope photometry and using catalogued near-infrared, optical and radio observations of potential counterparts. Six sources can be associated with known objects and eight sources may be associated with unidentified ROSAT sources within the 3 sigma error radii of our revised X-ray positions. We find 10 of the 30 XRT- and/or Burst Alert Telescope (BAT)-detected sources are clearly stellar in nature, including one periodic variable star and two high proper motion stars. For 11 sources we propose an active galactic nucleus (AGN) classification, among which four are detected in hard X-rays and three have redshifts spanning z= 0.2-0.9 obtained from the literature or from optical spectroscopy presented here. A further three sources are suspected AGN and one is a candidate Galactic hard X-ray flash, while five sources remain unclassified. The 67 Slew Survey sources we do not detect with Swift XRT or BAT are studied via their characteristics in the Slew Survey observations and by comparison with the XRT- and BAT-detected population. We suggest that these are mostly if not all extragalactic, though unlikely to be highly absorbed sources in the X-rays such as Compton thick AGN.
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Published: 02 March 2011
We have analyzed Cluster magnetic field and plasma data during high-altitude cusp crossing and compared them with high-resolution MHD simulations. Cluster encountered a diamagnetic cavity (DMC) during northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions, and as the IMF rotated southward, the spacecraft reencountered the cavity more at the sunward side of the cusp because the reconnection site had changed location. We found evidence of magnetic reconnection both during northward and southward IMF conditions. The Cluster separation was ~5000 km, enabling for the first time measurements both inside the DMC and surrounding boundaries that allowed us to construct the structure of the DMC and put the observations of ion pitch angle distributions in context of local reconnection topology and gradients of the boundaries. The cavity is characterized by strong magnetic field fluctuations and high-energy particles. At the magnetosheath boundary the high-energy particle fluxes reduced by several orders of magnitude. Throughout the magnetosheath, the high-energy proton fluxes remained low except during brief intervals when sc4 and sc1 dropped back into the cavity due to changes in solar wind dynamic pressure. However, the high-energy O+ fluxes did not drop as much in the magnetosheath and were mostly at 60°-120° pitch angles, indicative of a trapped population in the DMC which is observed in the magnetosheath due to a large gyroradius. Significant fluxes of protons and ionized oxygen were also observed escaping from the diamagnetic cavity antiparallel to the magnetic field in a time scale more consistent with the local DMC source than with a reflected bow shock source.
Published: 01 April 2011

Saturn's moon Titan has a massive atmosphere laden with layers of photochemical haze. We report a recent dramatic change in the vertical structure of this haze, with a persistent 'detached' layer dropping in altitude from over 500 km to only 380 km between 2007 and 2010. The detached haze layer appears to be a well-defined tracer for Titan's meridional stratospheric circulation, models of which suggest that a pole-to-pole meridional cell weakens during equinox as solar heating becomes more symmetric. These measurements connect the Cassini observations with those made by Voyager almost one seasonal cycle earlier. They place detailed constraints on the seasonal circulation, on the sources of photochemical aerosols, on the microphysical processes and on the complex interplay of these components.

Published: 01 April 2011

Published online in Science Express, 24 March 2011.

Because of their inherently high flux allowing the detection of clear signals, black hole x-ray binaries are interesting candidates for polarization studies, even if no polarization signals have been observed from them before. Such measurements would provide further detailed insight into these sources' emission mechanisms. We measured the polarization of the gamma-ray emission from the black hole binary system Cygnus X-1 with the INTEGRAL/IBIS telescope. Spectral modeling of the data reveals two emission mechanisms: The 250-400 keV data are consistent with emission dominated by Compton scattering on thermal electrons and are weakly polarized. The second spectral component seen in the 400keV-2MeV band is by contrast strongly polarized, revealing that the MeV emission is probably related to the jet first detected in the radio band.

Published: 24 March 2011
Although there is evidence that liquids have flowed on the surface at Titan's equator in the past, to date, liquids have only been confirmed on the surface at polar latitudes, and the vast expanses of dunes that dominate Titan's equatorial regions require a predominantly arid climate. We report the detection by Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem of a large low-latitude cloud system early in Titan's northern spring and extensive surface changes (spanning more than 500,000 square kilometers) in the wake of this storm. The changes are most consistent with widespread methane rainfall reaching the surface, which suggests that the dry channels observed at Titan's low latitudes are carved by seasonal precipitation.
Published: 18 March 2011
Although there is evidence that liquids have flowed on the surface at Titan's equator in the past, to date, liquids have only been confirmed on the surface at polar latitudes, and the vast expanses of dunes that dominate Titan's equatorial regions require a predominantly arid climate. We report the detection by Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem of a large low-latitude cloud system early in Titan's northern spring and extensive surface changes (spanning more than 500,000 square kilometers) in the wake of this storm. The changes are most consistent with widespread methane rainfall reaching the surface, which suggests that the dry channels observed at Titan's low latitudes are carved by seasonal precipitation.
Published: 18 March 2011
Context. The solar irradiance in the UV is a key ingredient in space weather applications; however, because of the lack of continuous and long-term observations, various indices are still used today as surrogates for the solar spectral irradiance.

Aims. As an alternative to current spectrometers we use a few radiometers with properly chosen passbands and reconstruct the solar spectral irradiance from their outputs. The feasibility of such a reconstruction is justified by the high redundancy in the spectral variability.

Methods. Using a multivariate statistical approach, we first compared six years of daily-averaged UV spectra and a selection of passbands (from existing radiometers) and solar indices. This leads to a strategy for defining those passbands that are most appropriate for reconstructing the spectrum.

Results. With four passdbands chosen from already existing instruments, we reconstruct the UV spectrum with a relative error of about 20%. Better performance is achieved with a combination of passbands than with a combination of indices.

Published: 03 March 2011
LYRA is the solar UV radiometer that will embark in 2006 onboard Proba2, a technologically oriented ESA micro-mission. LYRA is designed and manufactured by a Belgian Swiss German consortium (ROB, PMOD/WRC, IMOMEC, CSL, MPS and BISA) with additional international collaborations. It will monitor the solar irradiance in four UV passbands. They have been chosen for their relevance to Solar Physics, Aeronomy and Space Weather: (1) the 115 125 nm Lyman-± channel, (2) the 200 220 nm Herzberg continuum range, (3) the Aluminium filter channel (17 70 nm) including He II at 30.4 nm and (4) the Zirconium filter channel (1 20 nm). The radiometric calibration will be traceable to synchrotron source standards (PTB and NIST). The stability will be monitored by onboard calibration sources (LEDs), which allow to distinguish between potential degradations of the detectors and filters. Additionally, a redundancy strategy maximizes the accuracy and the stability of the measurements. LYRA will benefit from wide bandgap detectors based on diamond: it will be the first space assessment of a pioneering UV detectors program. Diamond sensors make the instruments radiation-hard and solar-blind: their high bandgap energy makes them insensitive to visible light and, therefore, make dispensable visible light blocking filters, which seriously attenuate the desired ultraviolet signal. Their elimination augments the effective area and hence the signal-to-noise, therefore increasing the precision and the cadence. The SWAP EUV imaging telescope will operate next to LYRA on Proba2. Together, they will establish a high performance solar monitor for operational space weather nowcasting and research. LYRA demonstrates technologies important for future missions such as the ESA Solar Orbiter.
Published: 02 May 2006
16-Oct-2021 15:18 UT

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