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Current Events at Saturn: Insights from the Cassini Mission

Feb. 13, 2024, 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
3853 Slichter Hall

Presented By:
Dr. Omakshi Agiwal
Center for Space Physics, Boston University

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Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun in our solar system, is a rapidly rotating gas giant which was explored by the Cassini spacecraft for ~13 years. The observations from the Cassini mission have shown us that the space environment around Saturn is shaped externally by the solar wind, and internally by its atmosphere, its rings and its moons, where Saturn’s unique magnetic field serves as a primary channel for energy and momentum transport. This presentation will provide an overview of how Saturn's unique magnetic field geometry impacts energy circulation throughout the Saturnian system, including its effect on processes such as magnetic reconnection and structures such as the rings, and the planetary upper atmosphere. The presentation will focus on some of the key discoveries from the Cassini era, for example, the discovery of polar upper atmospheric vortices that modulate Saturn’s magnetosphere with a 10 hour periodicity; a zonal-wind driven field-aligned current system (the same process that drives the polar aurora at Earth and other planets in our solar system) at near-equatorial latitudes; and various channels for mass loss from the rings to Saturn’s atmosphere.