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We report on unusual dynamics in Titan’s ionosphere as a significant difference in ionospheric electron density is observed between the T118 and T119 Cassini nightside flybys. Two distinct nightside electron density peaks were present during T118, at 1,150 and 1,200 km, and the lowest density ever observed in Titan’s ionosphere at altitudes 1,000–1,350 km was during T118. These flybys were quite similar in geometry, Saturn local time, neutral density, extreme ultraviolet flux, and ambient magnetic field conditions. Despite this, the Radio and Plasma Waves/Langmuir Probe measured a density difference up to a factor of 6 between the passes. The overall difference was present and similar during both inbound and outbound legs. By ruling out other factors, we suggest that an exceptionally low rate of particle impact ionization in combination with dynamics in the ionosphere is the explanation for the observations.
Edberg, N. J. T., Vigren, E., Snowden, D., Regoli, L. H., Shebanits, O., Wahlund, J.-E., et al. (2018). Titan’s variable ionosphere during the T118 and T119 Cassini flybys. Geophysical Research Letters, 45, 8721–8728. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL078436
Geophysical Research Letters
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