An isolated, bright cusp aurora at Saturn

Kinrade, Joe and Badman, Sarah Victoria and Bunce, E. J. and Tao, C. and Provan, G. and Cowley, S. W. H. and Grocott, Adrian and Gray, Rebecca and Grodent, D. C. and Kimura, T. and Nichols, J. D. and Arridge, Christopher Stephen and Radioti, Aikaterini and Clarke, J. T. and Crary, F. J. and Pryor, W. R. and Melin, Henrik and Baines, Kevin H. and Dougherty, Michele K. (2017) An isolated, bright cusp aurora at Saturn. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 122 (6). pp. 6121-6138. ISSN 2169-9402

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Saturn's dayside aurora display a number of morphological features poleward of the main emission region. We present an unusual morphology captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on 14 June 2014 (day 165), where, for two hours, Saturn's FUV aurora faded almost entirely, with the exception of a distinct emission spot at high latitude. The spot remained fixed in local time between 10-15 LT, and moved polewards to a minimum colatitude of ~4°. It was bright and persistent, displaying intensities of up to 49 kR over a lifetime of two hours. Interestingly the spot constituted the entirety of the northern auroral emission, with no emissions present at any other local time – including Saturn's characteristic dawn arc, the complete absence of which is rarely observed. Solar wind parameters from propagation models, together with a Cassini magnetopause crossing and solar wind encounter, indicate that Saturn's magnetosphere was likely to have been embedded in a rarefaction region, resulting in an expanded magnetosphere configuration during the interval. We infer that the spot was sustained by reconnection either poleward of the cusp, or at low latitudes under a strong component of interplanetary magnetic field transverse to the solar wind flow. The subsequent poleward motion could then arise from either reconfiguration of successive open field lines across the polar cap, or convection of newly opened field lines. We also consider the possible modulation of the feature by planetary period rotating current systems.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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©2017. The Authors. 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.
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31 May 2017 09:56
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30 Apr 2024 23:58