Journal Article

Dynamical evolution of Saturn's F ring dust particles

R. Sfair, S. M. Giuliatti Winter, D. C. Mourão and O. C. Winter

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 395, issue 4, pages 2157-2161
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Dynamical evolution of Saturn's F ring dust particles

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Saturn's F ring has been the subject of study due to its peculiar structure and the proximity to two satellites, named Prometheus (interior) and Pandora (exterior to the ring), which cause perturbations to the ring particles. Early results from Voyager data have proposed that the ring is populated with centimetre- and micrometre-sized particles. The Cassini spacecraft also detected a less dense part in the ring with width of 700 km. Small particles suffer the effects of solar radiation. Burns et al. showed that due to effects of one component of the solar radiation, the Poynting–Robertson drag, a ring particle will decay in the direction of the planet in a time much shorter than the age of the Solar system. In this work, we have analysed a sample of dust particles (1, 3, 5 and 10 μm) under the effects of solar radiation, the Poynting–Robertson drag and the radiation pressure components and the gravitational effects of the satellites Prometheus and Pandora. In this case, the high increase of the eccentricity of the particles leads almost all of them to collide with the outer edge of the A ring. The inclusion of the oblateness of Saturn in this system significantly changes the outcome, since the large variation of the eccentricity is reduced by the oblateness effect. As a result, there is an increase in the lifetime of the particle in the envelope region. Our results show that even the small dust particles, which are very sensitive to the effects of solar radiation, have an orbital evolution similar to larger particles located in the F ring. The fate of all particles is a collision with Prometheus or Pandora in less than 30 years. On the other hand, collisions of these particles with moonlets/clumps present in the F ring could change this scenario.

Keywords: Solar system: general

Journal Article.  2982 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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