New Radiation Belt
August 5, 2004
The magnetospheric imaging instrument onboard Cassini recently discovered a new radiation belt just above Saturn's cloud tops, up to the inner edge of the D-ring. Before this discovery, it was not anticipated that such a trapped ion population could be sustained inside the rings.
Shown here is an image taken by the magnetospheric imaging instrument on July 1, 2004, from a distance of 24,000 kilometers (14,900 miles) from Saturn's cloud tops. From blue to red the colors represent increasing intensity of the radiation. The location of the moon Titan in the image is shown, but emissions associated with Titan itself are too weak to stand out in the intense emission from the main radiation belt. The magenta lines represent the magnetic field lines that cross the equator just at the inner edge of the D-Ring, where the new-found radiation belt resides.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument was designed, built and is operated by an international team lead by the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Md.