Observational evidence for dust-plasma interactions in the Enceladus’ plume, Saturn E-ring, in Titan’s ionosphere, and near comets

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Jan-Erik Wahlund1, Mika K. G. Holmberg1, Ilka A. D. Engelhardt1, Anders I Eriksson1, Oleg Shebanits1, Michiko W. Morooka2, William M Farrell3, Donald A Gurnett4, William S Kurth4 and Shengyi Ye4, (1)IRF Swedish Institute of Space Physics Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden, (2)LASP/University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)NASA Goddard SFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)University of Iowa, Physics and Astronomy, Iowa City, IA, United States
The Cassini mission has identified dust-plasma interactions in at least three different regions in the Saturn system. These are
  • the dusty plasma environment near Enceladus, in particular within its plume
  • the dusty plasma environment in the Saturn inner plasma disk enveloping the E-ring
  • the aerosol-plasma environment in Titan’s deep ionosphere.

It is also believed to affect the dynamics substantially in a comet coma, now studied by Rosetta. The motion of plasma is changed considerably by the presence of substantial amounts of charged dust due to the added effect of gravity and radiation pressure forces on the dust component, thereby affecting the dynamics of the magnetosphere. Conversely the Lorentz force affects the charged dust through electric and magnetic fields that normally govern the motion of the plasma. Part of the dust size distribution should be considered a component of the plasma collective ensemble. The Cassini RPWS Langmuir Probe clearly detects a difference between the electron and ion number densities in all these regions, from which the total charge density of the negatively charged dust can be estimated. Moreover, the Cassini electron spectrometer (CAPS/ELS) detects negatively charged nanometer sized particles both in Titan’s ionosphere as well as in Enceladus’ plume. The inferred number densities are consistent with the Langmuir probe measurements. Here, the dust absorption of electrons is so strong that an ion-dust plasma is created with few free electrons. In the case of Titan’s ionosphere this triggers the formation of aerosols that then diffuse to the ground. We show here new measurements from the E-ring showing electron density depletions due to dust absorption, a dust tail region of Enceladus, and confirm the consistency between measurements of negative ions by CAPS/ELS and the Radio and Plasma Wave Science Langmuir Probe (RPWS/LP) in Titan’s ionosphere. We will also show initial hints regarding dust-plasma interaction near comets from the Rosetta Langmuir probe instrument (LAP).