Journal Article

The gravitational instability of a stream of co-orbital particles

Henrik N. Latter, Hanno Rein and Gordon I. Ogilvie

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 423, issue 2, pages 1267-1276
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The gravitational instability of a stream of co-orbital particles

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We describe the dynamics of a stream of equally spaced macroscopic particles in orbit around a central body (e.g. a planet or star). A co-orbital configuration of particles may be subject to gravitational instability, which takes the system to a spreading disordered and collisional state. We detail the linear instability’s mathematical and physical features using the shearing sheet model and subsequently track its non-linear evolution with local N-body simulations. This model provides a convenient tool with which to understand the gravitational and collisional dynamics of narrow belts, such as Saturn’s F ring and the streams of material wrenched from tidally disrupted bodies. In particular, we study the tendency of these systems to form long-lived particle aggregates. Finally, we uncover an unexpected connection between the linear dynamics of the gravitational instability and the magnetorotational instability.

Keywords: instabilities; planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability; planets and satellites: rings

Journal Article.  6765 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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