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About Saturn & Its Moons

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Magnetosphere - Recent Discoveries - Plasma Environment Characterization

The Cassini instruments measuring magnetospheric parameters are substantially improved over those of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft some 25 years ago. This has resulted in a wealth of information about the composition of the plasma in the magnetosphere.

Data from two instruments, the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) and Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI), show that the inner magnetosphere is mainly dominated by hydrogen and water-group ions. Though Voyager's instruments could not differentiate water-group ions from nitrogen ions, it was expected that large amounts of nitrogen would escape from Titan's atmosphere and be detected near Titan's orbit.

"The more sophisticated instruments on Cassini revealed that this is not the case," says Marcia Burton, investigation scientist. "It remains a puzzle whether there is less nitrogen escaping from Titan than scientists thought or if the nitrogen is somehow removed by a process not yet understood."