The viscous overstability, nonlinear wavetrains, and finescale structure in dense planetary rings

Latter, Henrik N.
Ogilvie, Gordon I.
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This paper addresses the fine-scale axisymmetric structure exhibited in Saturn's A and B-rings. We aim to explain both the periodic microstructure on 150-220m, revealed by the Cassini UVIS and RSS instruments, and the irregular variations in brightness on 1-10km, reported by the Cassini ISS. We propose that the former structures correspond to the peaks and troughs of the nonlinear wavetrains that form naturally in a viscously overstable disk. The latter variations on longer scales may correspond to modulations and defects in the wavetrains' amplitudes and wavelength. We explore these ideas using a simple hydrodynamical model which captures the correct qualitative behaviour of a disk of inelastically colliding particles, while also permitting us to make progress with analytic and semi-analytic techniques. Specifically, we calculate a family of travelling nonlinear density waves and determine their stability properties. Detailed numerical simulations that confirm our basic results will appear in a following paper.
Comment: 52 pages, 8 figures. Accepted in Icarus
Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics