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Investigation of the force balance in the Titan ionosphere: Cassini T5 flyby model/data comparisons
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2010 (English)In: Icarus (New York, N.Y. 1962), ISSN 0019-1035, E-ISSN 1090-2643, Vol. 210, no 2, 867-880 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Cassini's Titan flyby on 16 April, 2005 (T5) is the only encounter when the two main ionizing sources of the moon's atmosphere, solar radiation and corotating plasma, align almost anti-parallel. In this paper a single-fluid multi-species 3D MHD model of the magnetospheric plasma interaction for T5 conditions is analyzed. Model results are compared to observations to investigate the ionospheric dynamics at Titan as well as to understand the deviations from a typical solar wind interaction, such as Venus' interaction with the solar wind. Model results suggest that for the T5 interaction configuration, corotating plasma is the dominant driver determining the global interaction features at high altitudes. In the lower ionosphere below similar to 1500 km altitude - where the control of the ionospheric composition transfers from dynamic to chemical processes - magnetic and thermal pressure gradients oppose each other locally, complicating the ionospheric dynamics. Model results also imply that the nightside ionosphere - produced only by the impact ionization in the model - does not provide enough thermal pressure to balance the incident plasma dynamic pressure. As a result, the induced magnetic barrier penetrates into the ionosphere by plasma convection down to similar to 1000 km altitude and by magnetic diffusion below this altitude. Moreover, strong horizontal drag forces due to ion-neutral collisions and comparable drag forces estimated from possible neutral winds in the lower ionosphere below similar to 1400 km altitude oppose over local regions, implying that the Titan interaction must be treated as a 3D problem. Ion and electron densities calculated from the model generally agree with the Cassini Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer and Langmuir probe measurements; however, there are significant differences between the calculated and measured magnetic fields. We discuss possible explanations for the discrepancy in the magnetic field predictions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 210, no 2, 867-880 p.
Keyword [en]
Titan, Saturn, Satellites, Ionospheres
National Category
Physical Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-147119DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2010.07.004ISI: 000284178800024OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-147119DiVA: diva2:399911
Available from: 2011-02-24 Created: 2011-02-24 Last updated: 2011-02-24Bibliographically approved

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Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala Division
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Icarus (New York, N.Y. 1962)
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