Articles | Volume 21, issue 3
31 Mar 2003
 | 31 Mar 2003

A note on the ring current in Saturn’s magnetosphere: Comparison of magnetic data obtained during the Pioneer-11 and Voyager-1 and -2 fly-bys

E. J. Bunce and S. W. H. Cowley

Abstract. We examine the residual (measured minus internal) magnetic field vectors observed in Saturn’s magnetosphere during the Pioneer-11 fly-by in 1979, and compare them with those observed during the Voyager-1 and -2 fly-bys in 1980 and 1981. We show for the first time that a ring current system was present within the magnetosphere during the Pioneer-11 encounter, which was qualitatively similar to those present during the Voyager fly-bys. The analysis also shows, however, that the ring current was located closer to the planet during the Pioneer-11 encounter than during the comparable Voyager-1 fly-by, reflecting the more com-pressed nature of the magnetosphere at the time. The residual field vectors have been fit using an adaptation of the current system proposed for Jupiter by Connerney et al. (1981a). A model that provides a reasonably good fit to the Pioneer-11 Saturn data extends radially between 6.5 and 12.5 RS (compared with a noon-sector magnetopause distance of 17 RS), has a north-south extent of 4 RS, and carries a total current of 9.6 MA. A corresponding model that provides a qualitatively similar fit to the Voyager data, determined previously by Connerney et al. (1983), extends radially between 8 and 15.5 RS (compared with a noon-sector magnetopause distance for Voyager-1 of 23–24 RS), has a north-south extent of 6 RS, and carries a total current of 11.5 MA.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (current systems, magnetospheric configuration and dynamics, planetary magnetospheres)