Gravitoelectrodynamics of Charged Grains in Saturn's F Ring: Encounters with Prometheus and Pandora



Matthews, Lorin Swint.
Hyde, Truell Wayne.

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Journal of Physics A


The dynamics of Saturn's F ring have been a matter of curiosity ever since Voyagers 1 and 2 sent back pictures of the ring's unusual features. Some of these images showed three distinct ringlets with the outer two displaying a kinked and braided appearance. Many models have been proposed to explain the braiding seen in these images; most of these invoke perturbations caused by the shepherding moons or kilometre-sized moonlets embedded in the ring and are purely gravitational in nature. These models also assume that the plasma densities and charges on the grains are small enough that electromagnetic forces can be ignored. However, Saturn's magnetic field exerts a significant perturbative force on even weakly charged micron- and submicron-sized grains causing the grains to travel in epicyclic orbits about a guiding centre. This study examines the effect of Saturn's magnetic field on the dynamics of micron-sized grains along with gravitational interactions between the F ring's shepherding moons, Prometheus and Pandora. Due to the differences in charge-to-mass ratios of the various sized grains, a phase difference between different size populations is observed in the wavy orbits imposed by passage of the shepherding moons.




Journal of Physics A, 36(22), 6207-6214, 2003