Thursday, June 6, 2013

1306.1135 (Joseph M. Hahn et al.)

An N-body Integrator for Gravitating Planetary Rings, and the Outer Edge of Saturn's B Ring    [PDF]

Joseph M. Hahn, Joseph N. Spitale
A new symplectic N-body integrator is introduced, one designed to calculate the global 360 degree evolution of a self-gravitating planetary ring that is in orbit about an oblate planet. This freely-available code is called epi_int, and it is distinct from other such codes in its use of streamlines to calculate the effects of ring self-gravity. The great advantage of this approach is that the perturbing forces arise from smooth wires of ring matter rather than discreet particles, so there is very little gravitational scattering and so only a modest number of particles are needed to simulate, say, the scalloped edge of a resonantly confined ring or the propagation of spiral density waves. The code is applied to the outer edge of Saturn's B ring, and a comparison of Cassini measurements of the ring's forced response to simulations of Mimas' resonant perturbations reveals that the B ring's surface density at its outer edge is 195+-60 gm/cm^2 which, if the same everywhere across the ring would mean that the B ring's mass is about 90% of Mimas' mass. Cassini observations show that the B ring-edge has several free normal modes, which are long-lived disturbances of the ring-edge that are not driven by any known satellite resonances. Although the mechanism that excites or sustains these normal modes is unknown, we can plant such a disturbance at a simulated ring's edge, and find that these modes persist without any damping for more than ~10^5 orbits or ~100 yrs despite the simulated ring's viscosity of 100 cm^2/sec. These simulations also indicate that impulsive disturbances at a ring can excite long-lived normal modes, which suggests that an impact in the recent past by perhaps a cloud of cometary debris might have excited these disturbances which are quite common to many of Saturn's sharp-edged rings.
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