Bryn Mawr College Physics Colloquium

Unraveling the role of Enceladus in Saturn's magnetosphere through observation and simulation

Prof. Carol Paty
Georgia Tech
Monday 24 September 2012


Abstract: The Cassini spacecraft completed its first close flyby of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus on July 14, 2005; during this encounter a plume of water ice particles erupting from the southern polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus was discovered.  These ice geysers, sourced from a small 260 km radius moon, supply ice grains for Saturn's entire E ring.  While the gas component of these eruptions extends outward for several Saturn radii and creates a neutral cloud encircling Saturn that is observable from Earth orbit.  We explore the local and global impact of Enceladus on the Saturnian magnetosphere through a combination of observations and 3-dimensional plasma dynamic models whose foundation lies in fluid dynamic conservation equations and Maxwell's equations.  Saturn's magnetosphere presents a natural laboratory for studying the effects of ion-neutral and electron-neutral interactions on magnetospheric dynamics, phenomena usually ignored due to the relatively low densities and infrequent collisions in space plasma environments.