Saturn's Shockwaves Reach Supernova ForceSubmitted by Bob-45 on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 22:09
During a chance encounter with what appears to be an unusually strong blast of solar wind at Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected particles being accelerated to ultra-high energies. This is similar to the acceleration that takes place around distant supernovas. "Cassini has essentially given us the capability of studying the nature of a supernova shock in situ in our own solar system, bridging the gap to distant high-energy astrophysical phenomena that are usually only studied remotely," said Adam Masters of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Sagamihara, Japan.
Scientists are particularly interested in "quasi-parallel" shocks, where the magnetic field and the "forward"-facing direction of the shock are almost aligned, as may be found in supernova remnants. The new study, led by Masters describes the first detection of significant acceleration of electrons in a quasi-parallel shock at Saturn, coinciding with what may be the strongest shock ever encountered at the ringed planet.