An Empirical Model of Saturn’s Current Sheet Based on Global MHD Modeling of Saturn’s Magnetosphere

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:36 PM
Kenneth C Hansen1, Jonathan S Nickerson1 and Tamas I Gombosi1,2, (1)University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (2)Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
Cassini observations imply that during southern summer Saturn’s magnetospheric current sheet is displaced northward above the rotational equator and should be similarly displaced southward during northern summer [C.S. Arridge et al., Warping of Saturn’s magnetospheric and magnetotail current sheets, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 113, August 2008]. Arridge et al. show that Cassini data from the noon, midnight and dawn local time sectors clearly indicate this bending and they present an azimuthally independent model to describe this bowl shaped geometry. We have used our global MHD model, BATS-R-US/SWMF, to study Saturn’s magnetospheric current sheet under different solar wind dynamic pressures and solar zenith angle conditions.

We find that under typical conditions the current sheet does bend upward and take on a basic shape similar to the Arridge model in the noon, midnight, and dawn sectors. However, the MHD model results show significant variations from the Arridge model including the degree of bending, variations away from a simple bowl shape, non-uniformity across local time sectors, drastic deviations in the dusk sector, and a dependence on the solar wind dynamic pressure. We will present a detailed description of our 3D MHD model results and the characteristics of the current sheet in the model. We will point out variations from the Arridge model. In addition, we will present a new empirical model of Saturn’s current sheet that attempts to characterize the dependences on the local time sector and the solar wind dynamic pressure.