Control of Periodic Variations in Saturn’s Magnetosphere By Compressional Waves

Friday, 19 December 2014
Xianzhe Jia, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States and Margaret Kivelson, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Many of the periodic variations observed in Saturn’s magnetosphere can be linked directly to the presence of a rotating pattern of field-aligned currents that link the northern and southern ionospheres with each other and with the magnetosphere. Such a current system is incorporated in a magnetohydrodynamic simulation that has previously been shown to reproduce many of the observed periodic properties of the system (Jia et al., 2012; Jia and Kivelson, 2012). Here the simulation is used to investigate a range of phenomena that can be attributed to the effects of compressional waves launched from the rotating current sources. The compressional waves are found to drive the flapping of the plasma sheet and the expansion and contraction of the magnetopause in each rotation period. Because the compressional perturbations weaken as they rotate from morning to evening around the day side of the magnetosphere, the boundary develops a strong morning-evening asymmetry. A fit to the shape is provided that may be useful in further investigation of magnetopause properties, but there is already evidence of the proposed asymmetry in the Cassini observations of Clarke et al. [2010].