Monday, April 25, 2011

Saturn linked to icy moon Enceladus via beam of electrons

Electric: The green line traces the magnetic field lines connecting Saturn's ionosphere with Enceladus and its south polar plume of gas and icy grains. The inset shows the electron beam viewed by CassiniSaturn is linked to its moon Encleadus by powerful electrical currents with beams of electrons flowing back and forth between the two cosmic bodies, scientists revealed today.

The discovery was made using instruments on board NASA's Cassini spacecraft that arrived at Saturn in 2004.

Scientists have long been intrigued by Enceladus, which orbits 112,000 miles above Saturn.

Cassini spotted ice volcanoes erupting from the surface of the moon in 2005 and scientists believe this could be evidence of a massive underground ocean.

The craft has passed the 310mile-wide moon 14 times since it arrived, gradually unlocking its secrets.

Scientists studying resulting data have found that the jets of gas and icy grains emitted from the south pole of Enceladus, form an ionsphere when they become electrically charged.

This has led to the discovery of a new current system, caused by a dynamo effect, due to the motion of Enceladus and its ionsphere passing through the magnetic bubble that surrounds Saturn.

Jupiter has a similar current system that links it to at least three of its moons. Satellites orbit inside its magnetosphere - its giant magnetic bubble - forming the flowing spots that appear in the planet's upper atmosphere. ...

via Saturn linked to icy moon Enceladus via beam of electrons | Mail Online.

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