EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 400, Number 1, March II 2003
Page(s) 375 - 383
Section The Sun
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20021892

A&A 400, 375-383 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20021892

On the stability of Saturn's rings to gravity disturbances

E. Griv1, M. Gedalin1 and C. Yuan2

1  Department of Physics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, PO Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel
2  Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), PO Box 23-141, Taipei, Taiwan

(Received 7 August 2002 / Accepted 20 December 2002)

A method for investigating the small-amplitude nonlinear oscillations of low and moderately high optical depth regions of Saturn's main rings is developed through the using of the Boltzmann kinetic equation with a Krook model integral of interparticle collisions and the Poisson equation. A mathematical formalism in the approximation of weak turbulence (a quasi-linearization of the Boltzmann equation) is developed.

Conditions under which the quasilinear approximation can be used to describe wave-particle interactions are calculated with reference to the excitation of Jeans-type gravity disturbances (those produced by a spontaneous perturbation and/or a companion system). It is shown that the spontaneous, almost aperiodically growing Jeans-unstable spiral gravity oscillations developing in the disk's plane must influence the distribution of mutually gravitating particles in such a way as to hinder the oscillations excitation, i.e., to increase the spread of random velocities. As a result, finally in the disk there can be established a quasi-stationary distribution so that the Jeans-unstable density waves are completely vanishing. Thus, in the nonlinear regime, the particles can continue developing gravity-unstable density condensations only if some effective mechanism of "cooling" exists. We suggest that in Saturn's rings the cooling mechanism leading to the long-term density waves activity is actually operating: inelastic (dissipative) collisions reduce the magnitude of the relative velocity of particles.

Key words: planets and satellites: individual: Saturn -- planets: rings

Offprint request: E. Griv, griv@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

© ESO 2003