Cassini capturing of freshly-produced water-group ions in the Enceladus torus

Authors


Abstract

[1] The water vapor plume on the geological-active south-polar region of the moon Enceladus is recognized as the main source of Saturn's neutral torus centered on the Enceladus orbit. The composition of the torus is dominated by water group species. Recent in situ Cassini plasma spectrometer measurements indicate the existence of freshly produced, slow and non-thermalized water group ions throughout the Enceladus torus including regions far from the moon. We report the results of modeling spacecraft-plasma interactions in the environment relevant for the Enceladus torus to show that new-born non-thermalized ions will inevitably be captured by the electric fields arising around the charged spacecraft. The associated plasma configuration can directly impact the plasma measurements and thus is important for reliable interpretation of data obtained by Cassini instruments in the Enceladus torus. The simulation results appear to be partially supported by Cassini observations and can provide new insights into intricate process of Enceladus-plasma interactions.

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