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May 3 2013

Telling Time On Saturn: Undergraduate Student Shows How Planet's Magnetosphere Changes With the Seas


A University of Iowa undergraduate student has discovered that a process occurring in Saturn's magnetosphere is linked to the planet's seasons and changes with them, a finding that helps clarify the length of a Saturn day and could alter our understanding of Earth's magnetosphere.

Saturn's magnetosphere is the third largest structure in the solar system, eclipsed only by the magnetic fields of the sun and Jupiter. Unlike Earth, which has a visible rocky surface and rotates once every 24 hours, Saturn is composed mostly of clouds and liquid gas layers, each rotating about the planet at its own rate of speed. This variation in rotation made it difficult for scientists to pin down time for the planet.

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