The low-frequency source of Saturn’s kilometric radiation

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Abstract

Understanding how auroral radio emissions are produced by magnetized bodies requires in situ measurements within their source region. Saturn’s kilometric radiation (SKR) has been widely used as a remote proxy of Saturn’s magnetosphere. We present wave and plasma measurements from the Cassini spacecraft during its ring-grazing high-inclination orbits, which passed three times through the high-altitude SKR emission region. Northern dawn-side, narrow-banded radio sources were encountered at frequencies of 10 to 20 kilohertz, within regions of upward currents mapping to the ultraviolet auroral oval. The kilometric waves were produced on the extraordinary mode by the cyclotron maser instability from 6– to 12–kilo–electron volt electron beams and radiated quasi-perpendicularly to the auroral magnetic field lines. The SKR low-frequency sources appear to be strongly controlled by time-variable magnetospheric electron densities.

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