Imperial College London

Saturn waves and depression link: News from the College

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The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft in orbit around Saturn

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From new insights into Saturn’s magnetic environment, to a link between bowel surgery and antidepressant use, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Saturn waves

The Cassini space probe approaching Saturn (image credit: NASA)Before the Cassini spacecraft ended its mission around Saturn, it took 22 dives between the planet and its innermost ring. Now, a team led by Imperial researchers have analysed the data from the magnetometer instrument and found ‘Alfvén waves’ in the regions between the ring and the planet.

Alfvén waves are formed when charged particles (ions) oscillate in response to the interaction of the magnetic field with electrical currents. The team determined that the waves were driven by the planet-wide magnetic environment.

Lead researcher Professor David Southwood said: “It is as if sound from a massive wind instrument is playing a celestial violin, namely the magnetic field lines in the small cavity below the rings.”

Read the full paper in Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics: “Discovery of Alfvén waves planetward of Saturn’s rings

LGBT History Month

The Queen's Tower lit up at night with rainbow coloursAs part of the events programme for LGBT History Month, yesterday staff network Imperial 600 hosted an event which brought together discussions of climate change and identity.   

Lord Jonny Oates, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), joined experts from Imperial to discuss how to keep climate change front and centre.    

Lord Oates also discussed his recently published memoir, which explores his time in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and his struggles with sexuality and mental health as a young man. Lord Oates shared some advice that he was given, and that he would like to pass on to anyone else who is struggling with their mental health the way he was: “You are far more precious than you’re prepared to believe right now. You really need to understand that and you need to understand that there are lots of people who really care for you.” 

View a recording of the event   

Depression link

A woman holding a pill and a glass of waterA new study has found people undergoing stoma forming surgery for bowel condition Crohn’s disease are subsequently more likely to start antidepressants than people having non-stoma forming surgery.

Researchers from a number of institutions including St George’s, University of London, and Imperial College London, studied the records of more than a thousand people with Crohn’s disease undergoing bowel surgery.

Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. Some patients have a type of opening, called a stoma, placed in their abdomen, to allow drainage of the bowel’s contents. 

The study team, funded by supported by Crohn’s and Colitis UK, found patients who had a permanent stoma formed, were 71% more likely to start using an antidepressant after surgery than patients who had bowel surgery without stoma formation.

Although stoma forming surgery is potentially lifesaving, the research raises awareness of potential risks related to the surgery. 

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