"Cassini 'hears" plasma waves connecting Saturn to Enceladus

NASA news Cassini space probe

It is the first detection of its kind and shows how plasma waves travel on magnetic field lines between Saturn and Enceladus. The field is like a direct circuit between the planet and its Moon where energy flows back and forth, making unusual sounds along the way.

Much like air or water, plasma (the fourth state of matter) generates waves to carry energy.

The dynamic plasma energy between Saturn and its second-smallest moon is made up of electromagnetic waves in the audio frequency range.

Specialists changed over the recording of plasma waves into a "whooshing" sound file that we can hear - similarly a radio makes an interpretation of electromagnetic waves into music. Enceladus is tidally locked with Saturn, meaning it always keeps the same face toward the planet.

"We have now discovered that Saturn responds to perturbations from its companion in the form of waves in plasma, using the contour lines of the magnetic field, linking it to Enceladus, at a distance of hundreds of thousands of kilometers away", said one of the researchers Ali Suleiman.

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NASA said its Cassini spacecraft picked up something very unusual ― and unexpected ― when it plunged into Saturn on its final mission a year ago.

Astronomers have been busy dissecting data captured during Cassini's Grand Finale mission and have come across a completely new interaction between Saturn and its moon Enceladus. Enceladus is submerged in Saturn's magnetic field and is topographically dynamic, a radiating crest of water vapor that winds up ionized and fills the earth around Saturn.

It detected a series of plasma waves heading from Saturn to its rings and into Enceladus, one of its moons.

Sulaiman is lead author of a pair of papers describing the findings, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters. Our own Moon does not interact in the same way with Earth. Comparable associations happen amongst Saturn and its rings, as they are additionally extremely powerful.

The audio recording of the plasma waves was taken on September 7, 2017, and the Cassini probe held 12 different instruments on it with which to study Saturn.

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