Cassini nightside observations of the oscillatory motion of Saturn's northern auroral oval

Bunce, E. J. and Grodent, D. C. and Jinks, S. L. and Andrews, D. J. and Badman, S. V. and Coates, A. J. and Cowley, S. W. H. and Dougherty, M. K. and Kurth, W. S. and Mitchell, D. G. and Provan, G. (2014) Cassini nightside observations of the oscillatory motion of Saturn's northern auroral oval. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 119 (5). pp. 3528-3543. ISSN 2169-9402

[thumbnail of jgra51012]
PDF (jgra51012)
jgra51012.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (4MB)


In recent years we have benefitted greatly from the first in-orbit multi-wavelength images of Saturn's polar atmosphere from the Cassini spacecraft. Specifically, images obtained from the Cassini UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) provide an excellent view of the planet's auroral emissions, which in turn give an account of the large-scale magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling and dynamics within the system. However, obtaining near-simultaneous views of the auroral regions with in situ measurements of magnetic field and plasma populations at high latitudes is more difficult to routinely achieve. Here we present an unusual case, during Revolution 99 in January 2009, where UVIS observes the entire northern UV auroral oval during a 2h interval while Cassini traverses the magnetic flux tubes connecting to the auroral regions near 21 LT, sampling the related magnetic field, particle, and radio and plasma wave signatures. The motion of the auroral oval evident from the UVIS images requires a careful interpretation of the associated latitudinally oscillating magnetic field and auroral field-aligned current signatures, whereas previous interpretations have assumed a static current system. Concurrent observations of the auroral hiss (typically generated in regions of downward directed field-aligned current) support this revised interpretation of an oscillating current system. The nature of the motion of the auroral oval evident in the UVIS image sequence, and the simultaneous measured motion of the field-aligned currents (and related plasma boundary) in this interval, is shown to be related to the northern hemisphere magnetosphere oscillation phase. This is in agreement with previous observations of the auroral oval oscillatory motion.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Additional Information:
©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
30 Jul 2014 15:39
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 00:37