Plasma temperatures in Saturn's ionosphere

Luke Moore, Marina Galand, Ingo Mueller-Wodarg, Roger Yelle, Michael Mendillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We have calculated self-consistent electron and ion temperatures in Saturn's ionosphere using a series of coupled fluid and kinetic models developed to help interpret Cassini observations and to examine the energy budget of Saturn's upper atmosphere. Electron temperatures in the midlatitude topside ionosphere during solar maximum are calculated to range between 500 and 560 K during the Saturn day, approximately 80-140 K above the neutral temperature. Ion temperatures, calculated for only the major ions H+ and H 3+, are nearly equal to the neutral temperature at altitudes near and below the height of peak electron density, while they can reach 500 K during the day at the topside. Plasma scale heights of the dusk electron density profile from radio occultation measurements of the Voyager 2 flyby of Saturn have been used to estimate plasma temperature as a comparison. Such an estimate agrees well with the temperatures calculated here, although there is a topside enhancement in electron density that remains unexplained by ionospheric calculations that include photochemistry and plasma diffusion. Finally, parameterizations of the heating rate from photoelectrons and secondary electrons to thermal, ambient electrons have been developed. They may apply for other conditions at Saturn and possibly at other giant planets and exoplanets as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA10306
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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