(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered a never-before-observed mechanism by which giant, planet-scale auroras are formed on Saturn.
In this new study, Saturn is the only planet whose atmosphere generates auroras (the glow of the atmosphere near the planet’s poles) from powerful winds blowing in the atmosphere itself, and not from external sources located in the magnetosphere.
On all other planets of the solar system, including the Earth, the airglow occurs only under the action of large streams that flow into the atmosphere of the planet from the surrounding magnetosphere.
The reason for this “normal” type of airglow is the interaction either with charged particles emitted by the Sun (as in the case of the Earth) or with volcanic material erupted by the planet’s satellite (as in the case of Jupiter and Saturn).
This discovery will also help solve another long-standing scientific problem related to Saturn. This problem first emerged in 2004, when NASA’s Cassini probe first reached the giant planet’s system.
It turned out that when determining the length of the day on Saturn, scientists had “nothing to catch on to,” since the period of receipt of radio pulses from the planet’s atmosphere, which usually show a periodicity corresponding to the periodicity of the planet’s rotation around its axis, has changed significantly over several decades, while the speed of rotation of the planet around its axis could not change so quickly.
In a new study, a team led by MN Chowdhury of the University of Leicester, UK, observed infrared radiation from the upper atmosphere of a gas giant using the Observatory. Keka, located in Hawaii, and mapped various fluxes in Saturn’s ionosphere, a layer located much below the magnetosphere, over one month in 2017.
This map, when compared with previously recorded planetary glow pulses observed in the radio range, showed that a significant part The auroras on the planet are generated by the weather in the atmosphere and are responsible for Saturn’s observed “changes in rotational speed”.
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