NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted a glowing patch of ultraviolet light near Saturn's north pole that marks the presence of an electrical circuit that connects Saturn with its moon Enceladus. Two images obtained by Cassini's ultraviolet imaging spectrograph on Aug. 26, 2008, separated by 80 minutes, showing how the ‘footprint’ moved according to changes in the position of Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado/Central Arizona College

Enceladus and Saturn are Linked by Electromagnetic Currents

20 Apr , 2011

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The geysers and jets of Enceladus have just become more intriguing. A glowing patch of ultraviolet light near Saturn’s north pole appears to be evidence of a magnetic connection between the planet and the icy, geyser-spewing moon. Data from the Cassini spacecraft have revealed that the jets of gas and icy grains that emanate from the south pole of Enceladus become electrically charged and form an ionosphere, and the motion of Enceladus and its ionosphere through a magnetic bubble that surrounds Saturn acts like a dynamo, setting up a newly-discovered electrical current system that links the moon to the planet.

This video demonstrates the hiss-like radio noise generated by electrons moving along magnetic field lines from Enceladus to a glowing patch of ultraviolet light on Saturn.

Cassini’s Plasma Spectrometer’s electron spectrometer, (CAPS-ELS) has detected the beams of electrons that flow back and forth between Saturn and Enceladus. Magnetic field lines, invisible to the human eye but detectable by the fields and particles instruments on the spacecraft, arc from Saturn’s north polar region to south polar region. Enceladus resides in the arc of a set of the field lines and feeds charged particles into the Saturn atmosphere. The finding is part of a paper published in Nature.

From data Cassini collected in 2008, scientists saw a glowing patch of ultraviolet light emissions near Saturn’s north pole that marked the presence of a circuit between the two bodies, even though the moon is 240,000 kilometers (150,000 miles) away from the planet.

The patch occurs at the end of a magnetic field line connecting Saturn and its moon Enceladus. The area, known as an auroral footprint, is the spot where energetic electrons dive into the planet’s atmosphere, following magnetic field lines that arc between the planet’s north and south polar regions.

“The footprint discovery at Saturn is one of the most important fields and particle revelations from Cassini and ultimately may help us understand Saturn’s strange magnetic field,” said Marcia Burton, a Cassini fields and particles scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It gives us the first visual connection between Saturn and one of its moons.”

The auroral footprint measures approximately 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) by less than 400 kilometers (250 miles), covering an area comparable to California or Sweden. At its brightest, the footprint shone with an ultraviolet light intensity far less than Saturn’s polar auroral rings, but comparable to the faintest aurora visible at Earth without a telescope in the visible light spectrum. Scientists have not found a matching footprint at the southern end of the magnetic field line.

Scientists already knew that the giant planet Jupiter is linked to three of its moons by charged current systems set up by the satellites orbiting inside its giant magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere, and that these current systems form glowing spots in the planet’s upper atmosphere. The latest discovery at Enceladus shows that similar processes take place at the Saturnian system too.

“This now looks like a universal process — Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanic object in the solar system, and produces a bright spot in Jupiter’s aurora, “ said Dr. Andrew Coates from the University College in London, a co-author of the new paper. “Now, we see the same thing at Saturn — the variable and majestic water-rich Enceladus plumes, probably driven by cryovolcanism, cause electron beams which create a significant spot in Saturn’s aurora too.”

Paper: Wayne R. Pryor et al, “The auroral footprint of Enceladus on Saturn”, Nature, 472, 331–333, doi:10.1038/nature09928

Sources: University College, London, NASA

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Olaf
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Olaf
April 20, 2011 8:30 PM

First!

iantresman
Member
April 20, 2011 8:40 PM
One of the press releases notes “one of Saturn’s diminutive moons, is linked to Saturn by powerful electrical currents”, but doesn’t quantify it. It would be interesting to compare with other similar processes. The article notes “beams of electrons that flow back and forth between Saturn and Enceladus.”. I wonder whether they move back and forth along the same magnetic arc between Saturn and its moon, or continue from one arc to the other. Both press releases mention (positive charged) ion too, but it is not clear whether they are moving in the same direction as the electrons (the press releases says they move parallel to the magnetic field), which would suggest that the ions move in the… Read more »
Olaf
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Olaf
April 20, 2011 8:44 PM

You are second!

Olaf
Member
Olaf
April 20, 2011 8:49 PM

iantresman, I have been wondering.

If the Sun is + charged, and the Earth is – charged, then they will attract each other right? Now what charge has the moon?

Second question. How big is the charge of the Sun, the Earth and the Moon? Give us some numbers so we can cross-check your claims.

Third question assume that the Earth is negative charged? How come my hair does not stand up caused by the excessive elections like 2 gold leaves here on Earth?

iantresman
Member
April 20, 2011 9:20 PM
1. No, if the objects were charged, they wouldn’t “see” each other because the interplanetary medium would form a sheath around them. 2&3. Good question. This NASA web page notes that Earth’s “[fair weather field] is about 100 volts per meter, meaning that the electric potential increases by about 200 volts from the ground to the top of Michael Jordan’s head when he’s standing still. [but because] air is an excellent insulator, [..] your hair does not stand on end”. See “Soaking in atmospheric electricity – NASA Science” (http://) goo.gl/2cAjY The Wikipedia article on the “Natural electric field of the Earth” suggests that “The Earth is negatively charged, carrying 500,000 Coulombs (C) of electric charge (500 kC), and… Read more »
Olaf
Member
Olaf
April 24, 2011 12:42 PM
The wiki also says this; “The Earth is negatively charged, carrying 500,000 Coulombs (C) of electric charge (500 kC), and is at 300,000 volts (V), 300 kV,[1][2] relative to the positively charged ionosphere.” We have both the + and – charge near Earth making the complete Earth charge neutral relative towards the sun. The charges cancel each other out when you go above the atmosphere. But you still did not give credible numbers that would be able to calculate the orbits. How much charge and what sign does the sun have in and how much charge and sign does the Earth have? Also what charge has the Moon so it stays in orbit around Earth and not get… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
April 24, 2011 2:39 PM

Right, it is basically a planetary or atmospheric form of a capacitor. This business of there being sheaths in the interplanetary medium and its putative role in EM mechanics of the solar system is pure rubbish.

LC

iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 4:36 PM

@Olaf. Agreed, the complete Earth charge is neutral relative towards the sun, and I’ve never said otherwise.

@Olaf wrote: “you still did not give credible numbers that would be able to calculate the orbits”

Because (a) I don’t know the figures (b) the charges on the bodies have absolutely nothing to do with their orbits (c) there is no coulomb force pulling on the Moon/Earth. I really don’t know why you would think that I would think otherwise.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
April 24, 2011 6:27 PM

iantresman, I am surprised, you just told that EU/PC has no relationship whatsoever for the orbits of the planets.

iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 7:32 PM

Not quite, I implied that electrostatic plays no part, which is not quite the same thing. But whatever the mechanism, I am not aware that charging plays any role in the dynamic of the planets, which is consistent with your statement.

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
Member
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 24, 2011 9:29 PM

Mr. Tresman, you should be a bloody lawyer — you always manage to weasel your way out of any accusation!

iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 10:35 PM

There’s nothing to “weasel” out of, since the accusation is based on a misunderstanding, m’lord.

Nexus
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April 20, 2011 8:57 PM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
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IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 20, 2011 9:05 PM

*Golf clap*

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
Member
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 20, 2011 9:07 PM

(That was intended for “iantresman” above.)

iantresman
Member
April 20, 2011 9:23 PM

If you’re not interested in discovering more about these recent discovers, you can always hang out at the 19th hole.

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
Member
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 20, 2011 9:57 PM

Au contraire, I’m very interested in discovering more about these events; I just don’t need you to repeat what I’ve already read and what’s what!

Furthermore, hanging out at the 19th hole is the only good suggestion you’ve made so far in the comments section on Universe Today!

solarx2
Member
solarx2
April 20, 2011 10:41 PM

really? i thought his comments in this article have been informative and interesting. on the other hand your posts in here attacking him were neither informative or interesting. good day sir.

DallenS
Member
DallenS
April 20, 2011 11:06 PM

Couldn’t agree more Solarx2! And kudos to iantresman for taking the time to answer someone’s questions.

I rarely read comments here anymore because of the intellectual arrogance and nerd rage I’ve see from the likes Ivan on Universe Today. Very rarely do/did I find intelligent discussions even though many of the people who comment come across as really smart and knowledgeable. Such a wasted resource this.

Trolls rule the internet.

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
Member
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 20, 2011 11:04 PM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

iantresman
Member
April 20, 2011 11:57 PM

I have no idea. But if you are suggesting a sockpuppet, I believe that the WordPress CMS software can detect socks that use the IP address (although it can be circumvented).

Either way, I hope we are all friends on UT, even though we may sometimes disagree with each other’s points of view.

Uncle Fred
Member
Uncle Fred
April 20, 2011 11:51 PM

While normally I feel iamtresman is way off the mark (note our discussion on nebula and their relation to “sonic” shocks), I think his links look valid and have some merit. Can someone with expertise in these areas weigh in?

mgmirkin
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April 21, 2011 1:00 AM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
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IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 21, 2011 1:48 AM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

HOLOGRAMUNIVERSE@wordpress.com
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Mr Mike
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Mr Mike
April 21, 2011 4:23 AM
@ Holographic Galaxy We might know more of what you are actually asking if you just talk in simple ways –without the non-standard assumptions you seem to delight in make on your website and these comments we see. I ask any questions I ask because I wish to know; you ask them because you wish to show what you know. You do this regardless of the state of truth or falsehood that these facts you entertain might possess in the real world, the consensual world if you will, that the remainder of us share –mostly– via our views and scientific stances. Plausible deniablity not withstanding, several of the facts, true as they are individually, are not related to… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 24, 2011 1:36 AM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 5:17 PM

My comment here did not violate the comment policy.
The personal attack was towards me, I should have a right to defend myself.
Actually by deleting Mr. Hologram’s post, you then forced my post to then be violating the rules.

Aqua4U
Member
April 21, 2011 1:15 AM

BUZZ zaP! Y’all…. I can hear the HUMMMM fromm here! Source of Saturn’s radio outbursts?

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
April 24, 2011 12:31 AM
The electric field of the Earth, which is easy enough to deduce from the Wikipedia site Iantresman links, is a dipole or capacitor effect between the ground and the ionosphere. The is a voltage gradient, which is sustained by an influx of energy, and does not represent an idea that Earth has an overall net charge with respect to the sun. Clearly since the sun streams out charged particles any such charge or E field would be neutralized. So the idea there are electric forces between the sun and the Earth are not substantiated by this. The suggestion by Hollowgoofygalaxy that there is a substantial interaction between the Earth and the moon by magnetic fields is pure bilgewater.… Read more »
iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 11:00 AM
LC wrote: “The is a voltage gradient, which is sustained by an influx of energy, and does not represent an idea that Earth has an overall net charge with respect to the sun. Clearly since the sun streams out charged particles any such charge or E field would be neutralized” Agreed. Regions are neutral, though it does depend on what you take as your region. Spacecraft are charged negatively by the charged particles in the interplanetary medium, but is surrounded by positive sheath. Overall it is neutral, but the spacecraft, and presumably meteorites and dust are all charged negatively by space plasmas. Other factor such as photoionization charge positively, so its a bit more complicated. See for example,… Read more »
iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 11:06 AM
LC wrote: “The UT writers who publish articles which involve plasma physics in space and related issues should be vigilant with respect to these posts and delete them as soon as they become apparent.” I think we have to be careful, as I believe that most people are genuinely learning. For example, you mention that “The suggestion by Hollowgoofygalaxy that there is a substantial interaction between the Earth and the moon by magnetic fields is pure bilgewater”. I believe that the Moon is charged when it passes through the Earth’s magnetotail. See “Astronomers Discover That The Earth’s Magnetotail Charges The Surface Of The Moon” @ ScienceDaily, October 1, 2008. This may not be exactly what the poster had… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
April 24, 2011 11:47 AM

@iantresman: The exchange of charged particles between planetary bodies is not enough to adjust the orbital dynamics of these bodies. This finding with Enceladus is similar to the ion dynamics with Io around Jupiter. Yet none of this gives any credence to ideas about how electromagnetism organizes the large scale structure of the solar system.

LC

iantresman
Member
April 24, 2011 11:58 AM

LC wrote: “The exchange of charged particles between planetary bodies is not enough to adjust the orbital dynamics of these bodies.”

Absolutely, otherwise we’d be considering using electrostatics which is not appropriate in a plasma.

LC wrote: “Yet none of this gives any credence to ideas about how electromagnetism organizes the large scale structure of the solar system.”

I think that depends on the ideas. Electromagnetism” certainly influences smaller dust particle, such as those in Saturn’s rings, the Earth’s ionopshere, and now we see Saturn’s Moon-auroral coupling. Does any of this have a knock-on effect? Perhaps. But I agree there is no direct influence, on for example, planetary orbits.

sol88
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sol88
April 24, 2011 12:56 PM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

Jean Tate
Member
April 24, 2011 10:37 PM
To mgmirkin, sol88, and all the others who have been violating the Universe Today comment policy, by promoting anti-science ‘electric universe’ material: please take the time to understand this paragraph, placed prominently on this plasma universe website: “The Plasma Universe and Plasma Cosmology have no ties to the anti-science blogsites of the holoscience ‘electric universe’.” Despite a guideline which would suggest otherwise (“All posts to the scientific parts of the forum should be confined to properly constructed scientific arguments either supporting or challenging published Electric Universe theory”), the thunderbolts website is just as much anti-science as holoscience is. If you want to present, and defend, “Electric Universe theory” (sic) ideas, you are totally free to start up your… Read more »
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
Member
IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE
April 25, 2011 12:12 AM

… the thunderbolts website is just as much anti-science as holoscience is.

Yeah, and as long as Mr. Tresman is a member of “thunderbolts.info”, I will be suspicious of his motives for posting comments on Universe Today!

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 4:44 AM

Got it in one. End it now!

iantresman
Member
April 25, 2011 1:36 PM

Excellent, that is what science is all about, being constructively cynical, especially of new material that is not always understood well.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 4:42 AM

Again, EU/PC is effectively banned from that site, and such threads will be closed.
I suggest you just carte blanche effectively remove EU/PC altogether.
They have been coming to Universe because they know they will get away with it.

Also I expect you should discuss this carefully with Frazier too, as he states that he likes “alternative views” in comments. That’s what attracted them here in the first place!

iantresman
Member
April 25, 2011 1:41 PM

This is the second time you’ve stated this incorrectly. The actually position is described in this BAUT post.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 5:04 PM

No actually you should read BAUT Form “Rules for Posting to this Board.” @;
http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/32864-**-Rules-For-Posting-To-This-Board-** [Read Section 13, 13A and 13B]

Also see my comment to sol88 below, if you wish to see my reasoning.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 4:49 AM

Enceladus and Saturn are Linked by Electromagnetic Currents.
Actually, are not Io and Jupiter also known to be linked by Electromagnetic currents?
The linking is more likely due to bodies not being permeability to electric or magnetic fields. What likely happens is an interaction with the tenuous atmosphere and the stronger planetary field that affects it. It should not be uncommon or unexpected, and that the field strengths compared to the sun is fairly trivial.

sol88
Member
sol88
April 25, 2011 10:32 AM

I mean this is a resonable question to ask a scientific based board such as the excellent BA and UT, but, people are a bit touchy about plasma and electric current in space so I”’ ask any way.

Is 1.2×10^14 Watts a lot?

sol88
Member
sol88
April 25, 2011 10:38 AM

@Hon. Salacious B. Crumb

Wow you bag the EU/PC universe and in the next breath say “It should not be uncommon or unexpected” and that bodies SHOULD be expected to do such things and “Again, EU/PC is effectively banned from that site, and such threads will be closed.” , my question why?

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 25, 2011 4:58 PM
A bit rich and quite an amazing comment by you. Considering you were seemingly banned from the BAUT forum on 1st September 2006. On the 12th October you proclaimed as a ‘badge of honour’ on the thunderbolts.info “Up to my 16th time of being banned from the BAUT forum…” (I won’t post the link as it might embarrass you, though please ask.) This also applies to fellow EU/PC proponent Forrest Noble via “The Pan Theory”; http://www.bautforum.com/member.php/30016-forrest-noble (There are several others, too) Needless to say, PC/EU proponents are considered troublemakers on many forums and site. Wherever “electric” or “magnetic” are mentioned in a title, there you guys are waving the banner on your “ATM” Against the Mainstream rhetoric; again… Read more »
Dark Gnat
Member
Dark Gnat
April 25, 2011 3:07 PM

Given that many of these moons orbit well within the magnet fields of the parent planets, it’s natural to think that some type of interaction is going on. That doesn’t mean it’s the only force involved, though.

sol88
Member
sol88
April 26, 2011 7:22 AM

{Violation of comment policy: text deleted.}

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
April 26, 2011 8:10 AM

Keep dreamin’ little buddy…

iantresman
Member
April 26, 2011 12:52 PM

The link to “comment policy” is fine, but on that page, the link to “powerful (but fair) rules” is broken. Could it be fixed? It should be:
http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/32864-**-Rules-For-Posting-To-This-Board-**

Mr Mike
Guest
Mr Mike
April 26, 2011 2:09 PM
@Ian Yes, that link is broken, has been broken, and is not the set of rules used here, they inspire the rules setup for here. These linked rules do not act in superseding UTs rules in other words, to be fair and blunt. The fact you are pointing to this broken link in this fashion causes folks to wonder in the wrong fashion. It also demonstrates your desire for muddying the waters yet again, please refrain from this activity. Hard as it might seem to you to do you really need to observe your own actions though the eyes of others. Going again the herd is fine, getting the attention of the sheepdog via a guiding nip might… Read more »
iantresman
Member
April 26, 2011 3:16 PM
@Mr Mike Seven posts on this page have been replaced by the text: {Violation of comment policy: text deleted} which includes a note that the rules are inspired by the BAUT forum rules. I mentioned the broken link because (a) it looks naff (b) it is fixable. When people note broken links on my own sites, I thank them and fix them. “Remember, Ian, only you can prevent the positive reception of your presence, only you can assist yourself, and only you need change -to stand out as a misfit and not fit in as a standout it takes you.” I’m not the one going around calling people misfits or liars or worse, which falls far short of… Read more »
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