Saturn's turbulent F ring
thesisposted on 17.08.2015, 13:06 by Phil J. Sutton
As our abilities to utilise high performance computing to theoretically probe many astrophysical systems increases, a genuine need to relate to real systems becomes ever more important. Here, Saturn s rings can be used as a nearby laboratory to investigate in real time many astrophysical processes. One such system is the narrow F ring and its interaction with its inner shepherd moon Prometheus. Through numerical modelling and direct observations of the in-situ spacecraft Cassini we find new and exciting dynamics. These might help explain some of the asymmetries witnessed in the distribution of embedded moonlets and azimuthal ring brightness known to exist within the F ring. Spatially we find asymmetry in the Prometheus induced channel edges with regards to density, velocity and acceleration variations of ring particles. Channel edges that show fans (embedded moonlets) are also the locations of highly localised increases in densities, velocity and acceleration changes where opposing edges are considerably less localised in their distribution. As a result of the highly localised nature of the velocity and acceleration changes chaotic fluctuations in density were witnessed. However, this could seek to work in favour of creating coherent objects at this channel edge as density increases were significantly large. Thus, density here had a greater chance of being enhanced beyond the local Roche density. Accompanied with these dynamics was the discovery of a non-zero component to vorticity in the perturbed area of the F ring post encounter. By removal of the background Keplerian flow we find that encounters typically created a large scale rotation of ~10,000 km^2. Within this area a much more rich distribution of local rotations is also seen located in and around the channel edges. Although the real F ring and our models are non-hydrodynamical in nature the existence of a curl in the velocity vector field in the perturbed region could offer some interesting implications for those systems that are gas rich.