Comparing Jupiter and Saturn: dimensionless input rates from plasma sources within the magnetosphere
Abstract. The quantitative significance for a planetary magnetosphere of plasma sources associated with a moon of the planet can be assessed only by expressing the plasma mass input rate in dimensionless form, as the ratio of the actual mass input to some reference value. Traditionally, the solar wind mass flux through an area equal to the cross-section of the magnetosphere has been used. Here I identify another reference value of mass input, independent of the solar wind and constructed from planetary parameters alone, which can be shown to represent a mass input sufficiently large to prevent corotation already at the source location. The source rate from Enceladus at Saturn has been reported to be an order of magnitude smaller (in absolute numbers) than that from Io at Jupiter. Both reference values, however, are also smaller at Saturn than at Jupiter, by factors ~40 to 60; expressed in dimensionless form, the estimated mass input from Enceladus may be larger than that from Io by factors ~4 to 6. The magnetosphere of Saturn may thus, despite a lower mass input in kg s−1, intrinsically be more heavily mass-loaded than the magnetosphere of Jupiter.