Negative Diffusion in Planetary Rings with a Nearby Moon

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This paper analyzes a process that has been observed in simulations of numerous systems where ring material is strongly perturbed by a nearby moon. If the ring particles can be imparted with a forced eccentricity on the order of 10-5 in a single pass by the moon, particle orbits are observed to move towards regions of higher density as a result of the organized collisions that occur in the dense peaks of the satellite wake. The width of the ring can decrease by as much as 90% if the forced eccentricity is greater than 3×10-5 and the unperturbed geometric optical depth is greater than 0.03. The fractional change in ring width is relatively insensitive to the particle size so long as the particle radius is much less than the product of the semimajor axis and the forced eccentricity. Including a power law particle size distribution with slope of -2.8 spanning a decade in particle radius reduces the fractional width change by about 10% compared to the uniform particle-size case. Adding gravitational interactions between ring particles only has a significant effect on ring confinement if the unperturbed geometric optical depth exceeds .03, but a 40% reduction in ring width is still achieved in a self-gravitating ring of geometric optical depth 0.3 if the forced eccentricity exceeds 3×10-5. This process does not require the material to be in resonance with the moon, nor does it have any minimum mass constraints because particle self-gravity is not required. The collisional damping of satellite wakes therefore provides a simple mechanism by which a single moon can reduce the radial extent of any ringlet that is close to it and has sufficient optical depth for collisions to be significant.

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