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The dynamics of Saturn's main aurorae

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Geophysical Research Letters
Issue number17-18
Volume46
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)10283-10294
Publication statusPublished
Early online date3/09/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Saturn's main aurorae are thought to be generated by plasma flow shears associated with a gradient in angular plasma velocity in the outer magnetosphere. Dungey cycle convection across the polar cap, in combination with rotational flow, may maximize (minimize) this flow shear at dawn (dusk) under strong solar wind driving. Using imagery from Cassini's Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph, we surprisingly find no related asymmetry in auroral power but demonstrate that the previously observed “dawn arc” is a signature of quasiperiodic auroral plasma injections commencing near dawn, which seem to be transient signatures of magnetotail reconnection and not part of the static main aurorae. We conclude that direct Dungey cycle driving in Saturn's magnetosphere is small compared to internal driving under usual conditions. Saturn's large‐scale auroral dynamics hence seem predominantly controlled by internal plasma loading, with plasma release in the magnetotail being triggered both internally through planetary period oscillation effects and externally through solar wind compressions.