Compositional Indicators for a Dynamical Barrier within Saturn’s E-ring Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractMass spectra from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) [1] onboard the Cassini spacecraft revealed the existence of different compositional types of icy dust particles in Saturn’s E-ring. Most of these µm to sub-µm water ice grains were ejected from the cryo-volcanoes at the southern polar region of Enceladus and carry different constituents, for example organic compounds or salts [2-5]. These particles are subject to ongoing plasma sputtering during their lifetime in the E-ring [6,7].Recent modelling of the dynamics of E-ring particles has shown that, in the region between the orbital distances of Dione and Rhea, the outwards migration of a proportion of the E-ring dust slows down and almost comes to a halt [8]. Due to the minimum of the V-shaped electrostatic grain equilibrium potential [9] and a polarity reversal of the dust surface charges [10], the semi-major axes of the dust particles’ orbits actually stop growing, forcing the particles to spend a significant part of their lifetime at this distance from Saturn. Therefore, this phenomenon should allow plasma sputtering to operate much longer on the dust particles residing in this region, potentially resulting in detectable alterations to the dust particle properties, e.g. particle composition and size, in this region.Here we present the discovery of a new population of grains within the E ring, which show signs of compositional alteration, best explained by plasma sputtering. The radial frequency distribution of these grains shows a distinct accumulation in the region between the orbits of Dione and Rhea, and may provide evidence of prolonged residence there. Analyses of CDA mass spectra of the grains, interpreted via comparison with laboratory Laser‐Induced Liquid Beam Ion Desorption (LILBID) [11] analogue experiments, indicate the particles to be very salt-rich water ice. In comparison to the previously reported salt-rich particle types, generated from Enceladus’ subsurface ocean [3,4] this new population must possess a far higher salt concentration to explain its observed spectral appearance. We propose that the increase in salt concentration arises from sputtering-induced removal of water from less salty oceanic grains (Type 3) [3,4], during their extended time in the region between Dione and Rhea. This population may therefore represent the first confirmation of the proposed dynamical barrier within Saturn’s E-ring.References[1] Srama, R. et al., The Cassini Cosmic Dust Analyzer, Space Science Reviews, 114, 465-518, 2004.[2] Hillier, J. et al., The composition of Saturn’s E ring, Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 377, 1588–1596, 2007[3] Postberg, F. et al., The E-ring in the vicinity of Enceladus II. Probing the moon’s interior-The composition of E-ring particles, Icarus, 193, 438-454, 2008.[4] Postberg, F. et al., Sodium salts in E-ring ice grains from an ocean below the surface of Enceladus, Nature, 459, 1098-1101, 2009.[5] Postberg, F. et al., A salt-water reservoir as the source of a compositionally stratified plume on Enceladus, Nature, 474, 620–622, 2011[6] Jurac, S. et al., Saturn’s E Ring and Production of the Neutral Torus, Icarus, 149, 384–396, 2001[7] Johnson, R. E. et al., Sputtering of ice grains and icy satellites in Saturn’s inner magnetosphere, Planetary and Space Science, 56, 1238–1243, 2008[8] Kempf & Beckmann, Dynamics and long-term evolution of Saturn's E ring particles (in prep.)[9] Mitchell, C. J. et al., Tenuous ring formation by the capture of interplanetary dust at Saturn, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, 110, 2005[10] Kempf, S. et al., The electrostatic potential of E ring particles, Planetary and Space Science, 54, 999-1006, 2006[11] Klenner, F. et al., Analogue spectra for impact ionization mass spectra of water ice grains obtained at different impact speeds in space, Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom., 33, 1751–1760, 2019

publication date

  • May 2, 2024

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • August 2, 2021 11:48 AM

Full Author List

  • Nölle L; Postberg F; Kempf S; Hillier J; Khawaja N; Klenner F; Hsu S; Srama R

author count

  • 8

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