Researcher discovers how water ions escape from Saturn’s environment

Researcher discovers how water ions escape from Saturn’s environment

A researcher has finally found how water ions leave Saturn’s environment. Daniel Reisenfeld, a professor at University of Montana, is a member of the Cassini research team. Cassini is a probe managed by NASA and studies Saturn. The probe has been in orbit continuously gathering data since 2004.

A Cassini instrument calculates the magnetosphere of the planet, the charged particles, called plasma, that have been caught there in the space surrounding Saturn by its magnetic field.

In an earlier discovery, Cassini found that Saturn’s plasma has water ions, which are derived from its moon Enceladus, spewing water vapors from its Yellowstone-like geysers. When the team of researchers came to know that the water ions can’t accumulate indefinitely, the team decided to explain how the water ions escape from the magnetosphere of Saturn.

The authors explained in the paper that the plasma got a place to exhaust out of the magnetosphere at a reconnection point. It is basically the place where magnetic fields disconnect from one environment and reconnect with another environment’s magnetic fields.

In Saturn’s case, the researchers found that the reconnection point was present at the planet’s back, where the magnetotail was linking to the magnetic field of the solar winds. Reisenfeld has compared the situation with a rotary or a traffic circle. When a person gets into the rotary, he restricts exit points.

He said, “If you can’t find the exit, you keep going around in circles. So, the plasma around Saturn is basically trapped to go around the rotary. We assumed it had to escape somehow and somewhere, but actually finding the jettison point is pretty cool”.

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