Utilizing the Upcoming Gravity Measurements from Cassini's Proximal Orbits for Studying the Atmospheric Dynamics of Saturn - How Deep Do the Winds Penetrate?

Monday, 15 December 2014
Yohai Kaspi and Eli Galanti, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
At the end of the Cassini mission, the spacecraft will descend into close-by proximal orbits around Saturn. During those proximal orbits, Cassini will obtain high precision gravity measurements of the planet. In this talk, we will discuss how this data can be used to estimate the depth of the observed flows on the planet. This can be done in several ways: 1. measurements of the high order even harmonics which beyond J10 are dominated by the dynamics; 2. measurements of odd gravity harmonics which have no contribution from a static planet, and therefore are a pure signature of dynamics; 3. upper limits on the depth can be obtained by comparing low order even harmonics from dynamical models to the difference between the measured low order even harmonics and the largest possible values of a static planet; 4. direct latitudinally varying measurements of the gravity field exerted on the spacecraft. We will discuss how these methods may be applied and show that given the expected sensitivity of Cassini the odd harmonics J3 and J5 will have the best sensitivity to deep dynamics, allowing detection of winds reaching only O(100km) deep, if those exist on Saturn. We use a hierarchy of dynamical models ranging from full 3D dynamical circulation models to simplified dynamical models where the sensitivity of the gravity field to the dynamics can be explored. In order to invert the gravity field to be measured by Cassini into the depth dependent circulation, an adjoint inverse model is constructed for the dynamical models, thus allowing backward integration of the dynamical model. This tool can be used for examination of various scenarios, including cases in which the depth of the wind depends on latitudinal position. In summary, we expect that the very end of Cassini's tour holds an opportunity for gravity measurements that may finally allow answering one of the long-lasting puzzles in planetary science regarding the depth of the zonal jets on the gas giants. In fact, as Juno will be performing similar measurements we hope to be able to build a picture of the dynamics for both Jupiter and Saturn. Answering this puzzle, will likely help explain the origin of the multiple jet streams and strong equatorial superrotation on the gas giants.