EGU21-11161, updated on 05 Jan 2022
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Interpretation of dust impact signals detected by Cassini at Saturn

Libor Nouzak1, Jiří Pavlů1, Jakub Vaverka1, Jana Šafránková1, Zdeněk Němeček1, David Píša2, Mitchell H. Shen3,4, Zoltan Sternovsky3,4, and Shengyi Ye5
Libor Nouzak et al.
  • 1Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague, Czechia (
  • 2Department of Space Physics, IAP CAS, Prague, 180 00 Czechia
  • 3Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 4Aerospace Eng. Sci. Department, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 5Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Shenzhen, China

The Cassini spacecraft spent more than 13 years in the dusty environment of Saturn. During this long period of investigations of the Saturn magnetosphere, the RPWS (Radio Plasma Wave Science) instrument recorded more than half a million spiky signatures. However, not all of them can be interpreted as dust impact signals because plasma structures like solitary waves can result in similar pulses.

We select the registered spike waveforms recorded by both dipole and monopole configurations of electric field antennas operated in 10 kHz or 80 kHz sampling rates at the distance of 0.2 Rs around the rings mid-plane. These waveforms were corrected using Cassini WBR (Wide Band Receiver) transfer function to obtain the correct shape of the signal. The signal polarity, amplitude, and timescales of different parts of the waveforms were quantitatively inspected according to the spacecraft potential, the density of the ambient plasma, the intensity of the Saturn’s magnetic field, and its orientation with respect to the spacecraft. The magnetic field orientation was also used for distinguishing between signals resulting from dust impacts and signals produced by solitary waves misinterpreted as dust impact signals.

The preliminary results of our study indicate similarities with previous laboratory studies of dust impact waveforms on the reduced model of Cassini bombarded with submicron-sized iron grains in external magnetic fields at the LASP facility of the University of Colorado. The polarity of the signals changes in accordance with a polarity of the spacecraft potential and pre-spike signals are also observed. The core of the paper is devoted to the relation between characteristics of dust impact signals and local plasma parameters and magnetic field intensity at the radial distance from 2 Rs to 60 Rs from Saturn surface.

How to cite: Nouzak, L., Pavlů, J., Vaverka, J., Šafránková, J., Němeček, Z., Píša, D., Shen, M. H., Sternovsky, Z., and Ye, S.: Interpretation of dust impact signals detected by Cassini at Saturn, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11161,, 2021.