A variety of arguments put forth in recent years lead to the conclusion that most, if not all, planetary rings are too young to be primordial, and are evolving too rapidly to survive for the life of the solar system (see, e.g., Esposito 1993, AREPS, 21, 487, and references therein). At the same time rings are ubiquitous around the giant planets. A ring formation mechanism is therefore needed that can be repeated on a time scale no greater than the lifetime of the rings. Several mechanisms have been suggested, but there is as yet no consensus. In this poster we consider a new hypothesis: that satellites with orbits inside the synchronous orbit serve as a reservoir of potential ring material. Tides raised on the planets by these satellites will cause their orbits to decay until they the satellites are fractured by tidal stress. Current conditions at Uranus and Neptune are consistent with this ring formation mechanism for those planets. By contrast the mechanism seems unlikely to be important for the more rapidly rotating Jupiter and Saturn.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #28
- Pub Date:
- September 1996