Investigating magnetospheric interaction effects on Titan's ionosphere with the Cassini orbiter Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer, Langmuir Probe and magnetometer observations during targeted flybys
2012 (English)In: Icarus (New York, N.Y. 1962), ISSN 0019-1035, E-ISSN 1090-2643, Vol. 219, no 2, 534-555 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
In the similar to 6 years since the Cassini spacecraft went into orbit around Saturn in 2004, roughly a dozen Titan flybys have occurred for which the Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) measured that moon's ionospheric density and composition. For these, and for the majority of the similar to 60 close flybys probing to altitudes down to similar to 950 km, Langmuir Probe electron densities were also obtained. These were all complemented by Cassini magnetometer observations of the magnetic fields affected by the Titan plasma interaction. Titan's ionosphere was expected to differ from those of other unmagnetized planetary bodies because of significant contributions from particle impact due to its magnetospheric environment. However, previous analyses of these data clearly showed the dominance of the solar photon source, with the possible exception of the nightside. This paper describes the collected ionospheric data obtained in the period between Cassini's Saturn Orbit Insertion in 2004 and 2009, and examines some of their basic characteristics with the goal of searching for magnetospheric influences. These influences might include effects on the altitude profiles of impact ionization by magnetospheric particles at the Titan orbit location, or by locally produced pickup ions freshly created in Titan's upper atmosphere. The effects of forces on the ionosphere associated with both the draped and penetrating external magnetic fields might also be discernable. A number of challenges arise in such investigations given both the observed order of magnitude variations in the magnetospheric particle sources and the unsteadiness of the magnetospheric magnetic field and plasma flows at Titan's (similar to 20Rs (Saturn Radius)) orbit. Transterminator flow of ionospheric plasma from the dayside may also supply some of the nightside ionosphere, complicating determination of the magnetospheric contribution. Moreover, we are limited by the sparse sampling of the ionosphere during the mission as the Titan interaction also depends on Saturn Local Time as well as possible intrinsic asymmetries and variations of Titan's neutral atmosphere. We use organizations of the data by key coordinate systems of the plasma interaction with Titan's ionosphere to help interpret the observations. The present analysis does not find clear characteristics of the magnetosphere's role in defining Titan's ionosphere. The observations confirm the presence of an ionosphere produced mainly by sunlight, and an absence of expected ionospheric field signatures in the data. Further investigation of the latter, in particular, may benefit from numerical experiments on the inner boundary conditions of 3D models including the plasma interaction and features such as neutral winds.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 219, no 2, 534-555 p.
Titan, Titan, atmosphere, Saturn, satellites
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-177235DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.03.015ISI: 000305050200003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-177235DiVA: diva2:540272