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High-velocity streams of dust originating from Saturn


High-velocity submicrometre-sized dust particles expelled from the jovian system have been identified by dust detectors on board several spacecraft1,2. On the basis of periodicities in the dust impact rate, Jupiter's moon Io was found to be the dominant source of the streams3. The grains become positively charged within the plasma environment of Jupiter's magnetosphere, and gain energy from its co-rotational electric field4. Outside the magnetosphere, the dynamics of the grains are governed by the interaction with the interplanetary magnetic field that eventually forms the streams5. A similar process was suggested for Saturn6. Here we report the discovery by the Cassini spacecraft of bursts of high-velocity dust particles (≥ 100 km s-1) within 70 million kilometres of Saturn. Most of the particles detected at large distances appear to originate from the outskirts of Saturn's outermost main ring. All bursts of dust impacts detected within 150 Saturn radii are characterized by impact directions markedly different from those measured between the bursts, and they clearly coincide with the spacecraft's traversals through streams of compressed solar wind.

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Figure 1: Impact rate registered by the cosmic dust analyser (CDA) between 10 January and 6 September 2004.
Figure 2: Comparison between typical signals caused by saturnian and jovian stream particles and by the fastest calibration impact.
Figure 3: Dependence of the grain's dynamics on its initial position.
Figure 4: Directionality of particles detected between 18 July (day 200) and 6 September (day 250).


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This project is supported by the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik and the DLR.

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Correspondence to Sascha Kempf.

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Kempf, S., Srama, R., Horányi, M. et al. High-velocity streams of dust originating from Saturn. Nature 433, 289–291 (2005).

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