We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK


93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Supercorotating return flow from reconnection i...
View graph of relations

« Back

Supercorotating return flow from reconnection in Saturn's magnetotail

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • A. Masters
  • M. F. Thomsen
  • S. V. Badman
  • C. S. Arridge
  • D. T. Young
  • A. J. Coates
  • M. K. Dougherty
Article numberL03103
Journal publication date02/2011
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


Detecting plasma dynamics in Saturn's magnetosphere is essential for understanding energy flow through the system. It has been proposed that both the Dungey and Vasyliunas cycles operate at Saturn, and the competition between these cycles has been debated. We examine data taken by the Cassini spacecraft in Saturn's post-dawn magnetosphere, ∼17.5 Saturn radii from the planet, and identify an example of return flow from magnetotail reconnection. The flow included water group ions and had elevated ion temperatures (of order 1 keV), consistent with Vasyliunas cycle return flow. The flow was also supercorotating (∼200 km s−1, ∼120% of corotation), which is highly atypical of Saturn's outer magnetosphere. Our results suggest that return flows are time-variable, and our results concerning Dungey cycle return flows are inconclusive. We propose that supercorotating flows in Saturn's dawn magnetosphere strongly influence the current system that is responsible for the planet's main auroral emission.

Bibliographic note

Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.