Just in case you didn’t know what an aurora is — it is a result of the emission of photons, due to interactions in a planet’s upper atmosphere. Variations in the plasma environment release trapped electrons, which then stream along the magnetic field lines into the upper atmosphere. They then collide with atoms and molecules, exciting them to higher energies. The atoms and molecules release this extra energy by radiating light at particular characteristic colours and wavelengths. On Earth, we frequently see a green colour, a result of the green Oxygen line. On Saturn, emissions are from molecular and atomic Hydrogen. From our research, we know that the photons released on Saturn are into the UV spectrum. This means they can best be observed using special filters, not our naked eyes.
Now that you know a little more about auroras and the planet we’ll be investigating, let’s get you up to speed.
This week, we’ve focused on finding information. Each member of our team has been scouring the World Wide Web for everything that could possibly help us along our journey. We’ve looked at many sources, including Google Scholar and NASA ADS (Astrophysics Data System), so that we could devise a more structured method for research, analysis and report writing.
So far we’ve found many articles, including some based on the changing seasons on Saturn and a comparison between planets and their aurorae. We’ve also found that imaging is typically done in the UV spectrum, so this could aid us in structuring our project.
We were also able to gain access to our assigned lab room so that we can meet and continue working easily. Next week, we will be presenting our project idea to the rest of the PHYS369 group (and our module supervisors — Sarah Badman and David Sobral). We’ll be able to get some feedback on our direction, as well as answer any general questions our audience might have.
Wish us luck!