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Keywords:

  • Saturn;
  • magnetic reconnection;
  • magnetopause;
  • magnetosphere

[1] Magnetic reconnection is an important process that occurs at the magnetopause boundary of Earth's magnetosphere because it leads to transport of solar wind energy into the system, driving magnetospheric dynamics. However, the nature of magnetopause reconnection in the case of Saturn's magnetosphere is unclear. Based on a combination of Cassini spacecraft observations and simulations we propose that plasma βconditions adjacent to Saturn's magnetopause largely restrict reconnection to regions of the boundary where the adjacent magnetic fields are close to anti-parallel, severely limiting the fraction of the magnetopause surface that can become open. Under relatively low magnetosheathβconditions we suggest that this restriction becomes less severe. Our results imply that the nature of solar wind-magnetosphere coupling via reconnection can vary between planets, and we should not assume that the nature of this coupling is always Earth-like. Studies of reconnection signatures at Saturn's magnetopause will test this hypothesis.