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Resonant Phenomena in Saturn's Rings: Theory and Observation

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Due to their relative proximity and breadth, Saturn's rings are a valuable laboratory for the study of resonant interactions in collisional disks. The theoretical foundations for the study of resonant ring dynamics were established largely in the 1970s, and that framework was tested and refined during the subsequent 2.5 decades using data sets obtained by the Voyager missions, as well as the results of a small number of stellar occultations.  However, until the arrival at Saturn of the Cassini spacecraft in 2004, the total number of observations of any given ring radius at resolutions fine enough to study the most interesting dynamical effects was of order 10, limiting models of ring kinematics to static solutions with low wavenumbers.  Cassini has improved that coverage by 2--3 orders of magnitude, while also improving the fidelity of the observations, allowing for time-dependent kinematical models with wavenumbers up to, in principle, ~100, as well as allowing the detection of non-resonant effects caused by local perturbations. This talk will discuss the observable consequences of resonances in Saturn's rings: comparisons with theory, implications for ring bulk properties, open questions, and application to the broader universe.

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