Multifluid MHD Investigation of Plasma Production and Transport in Saturn's Magnetosphere

Friday, 19 December 2014
Ashok Rajendar, Georgia Institute of Technology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Atlanta, GA, United States, Carol S Paty, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, United States and Christopher Stephen Arridge, University of Lancaster, Department of Physics, Lancaster, United Kingdom
The dynamics of Saturn's inner magnetosphere are driven by the planet's strong magnetic field, rapid rotation rate, and interactions between magnetospheric plasma and Saturn's distributed neutral cloud. This cloud is composed mostly of water and OH molecules and primarily originates from the cryovolcanic plumes of Enceladus. Charge-exchange collisions between ions and neutrals result in a loss of momentum from the plasma, while photoionization and electron-impact ionization of neutrals produces new, slow-moving water group ions that are accelerated in the corotation direction by the J×Bforce associated with magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling currents. Unbalanced centrifugal stresses cause this newly-produced plasma to move radially outward, eventually leaving the magnetosphere. The characteristic signature of this process is the development of inward-moving fingers of hot, rarefied, outer magnetosphere plasma, as required by the conservation of magnetic flux.

We investigate the dynamics of Saturn's inner magnetosphere using the latest iteration of the Saturn multifluid model with refined plasma-neutral interaction physics. Earlier versions of this model were used to investigate the external triggering of plasmoids and the interchange process using a fixed internal source rate. We use a static representation of Saturn's neutral cloud and modified multifluid MHD equations incorporating mass- and momentum-loading terms. Our collision physics calculations have been updated to include energy-dependent rate coefficients, and includes the ability to specify a radially-dependent suprathermal electron distribution to investigate ionization by this component.

We validate our results using data from the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer and Magnetometer instruments (CAPS and MAG) during Saturn solstice. Inclusion of self-consistent ion-neutral interactions in our simulation allows us to examine the spatial and temporal variation in mass- and momentum-loading in the inner magnetosphere and their dependence on local plasma conditions. We also investigate the formation and evolution of interchange fingers, comparing our results with data from Cassini, and determine the global rates of radial outflow. Finally, we study the impact of seasonal changes on the above phenomena.