Cassini observations of Saturn’s southern polar cusp

Arridge, Christopher Stephen and Jasinski, J. M. and Achilleos, Nicholas and Bogdanova, Y. V. and Bunce, E. J. and Cowley, S. W. H. and Fazakerley, A. N. and Khurana, K. K. and Lamy, Laurent and Leisner, J. S. and Roussos, E. and Russell, C. T. and Zarka, P. and Coates, A. J. and Dougherty, M. K. and Jones, Geraint H. and Krimigis, S.M. and Krupp, Norbert (2016) Cassini observations of Saturn’s southern polar cusp. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 121 (4). pp. 3006-3030. ISSN 2169-9402

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The magnetospheric cusps are important sites of the coupling of a magnetosphere with the solar wind. The combination of both ground- and space-based observations at Earth have enabled considerable progress to be made in understanding the terrestrial cusp and its role in the coupling of the magnetosphere to the solar wind via the polar magnetosphere. Voyager 2 fully explored Neptune’s cusp in 1989 but highly inclined orbits of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn present the most recent opportunity to repeatedly studying the polar magnetosphere of a rapidly rotating planet. In this paper we discuss observations made by Cassini during two passes through Saturn’s southern polar magnetosphere. Our main findings are that i) Cassini directly encounters the southern polar cusp with evidence for the entry of magnetosheath plasma into the cusp via magnetopause reconnection, ii) magnetopause reconnection and entry of plasma into the cusp can occur over a range of solar wind conditions, and iii) double cusp morphologies are consistent with the position of the cusp oscillating in phase with Saturn’s global magnetospheric periodicities.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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Accepted for publication in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics. Copyright 2016 American Geophysical Union. Further reproduction or electronic distribution is not permitted.
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18 Apr 2016 12:20
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18 Apr 2024 00:23