Scientists Discover New Radiation Belt at Saturn

north pole of Dione The Cassini spacecraft looks down on the north pole of Dione and the fine fractures that cross its trailing hemisphere. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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September 14, 2009

Scientists using the Cassini spacecraft's Magnetospheric Imaging instrument have detected a new, temporary radiation belt at Saturn, located around the orbit of its moon Dione at about 377,000 kilometers (234,000 miles) from the center of the planet.

The new belt, which has been named "the Dione belt," was detected by the instrument for only a few weeks on three separate occasions in 2005. Scientists believe that newly formed charged particles in the Dione belt were gradually absorbed by Dione itself and another nearby moon, named Tethys, which lies slightly closer to Saturn at an orbit of 295,000 kilometers (183,304 miles).

The discovery was presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany on September 14.

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