Apse Alignment of the Uranian Rings
Abstract
An explanation of the dynamical mechanism for apse alignment of the eccentric uranian rings is necessary before observations can be used to determine properties such as ring masses, particle sizes, and elasticities. The leading model (P. Goldreich and S. Tremaine 1979, Astron J.84, 16381641) relies on the ring selfgravity to accomplish this task, yet it yields equilibrium masses which are not in accord with Voyager radio measurements. We explore possible solutions such that the selfgravity and the collisional terms are both involved in the process of apse alignment. We consider limits that correspond to a hot and a cold ring, and we show that pressure terms may play a significant role in the equilibrium conditions for the narrow uranian rings. In the cold ring case, where the scale height of the ring near periapse is comparable to the ring particle size, we introduce a new pressure correction pertaining to a region of the ring where the particles are locked in their relative positions and jammed against their neighbors and the velocity dispersion is so low that the collisions are nearly elastic. In this case, we find a solution such that the ring selfgravity maintains apse alignment against both differential precession ( m=1 mode) and the fluid pressure. We apply this model to the uranian α ring and show that, compared to the previous selfgravity model, the mass estimate for this ring increases by an order of magnitude. In the case of a hot ring, where the scale height can reach a value as much as 50 times the particle size, we find velocity dispersion profiles that result in pressure forces which act in such a way as to alter the ring equilibrium conditions, again leading to a ring mass increase of an order of magnitude. We find that such a velocity dispersion profile would require a different mechanism than is currently envisioned for establishing a heating/cooling balance in a finitesized, inelastic particle ring. Finally, we introduce an important correction to the model of E. I. Chiang and P. Goldreich (2000, Astrophys. J.540, 10841090.). These authors relied on collisional forces in the last ∼100 m of an ∼10 km wide ring to increase ring equilibrium masses by up to a factor of ∼100. However, their treatment of ring edges as onesided surface density drops leads to a strong dependence of the ring mass on the adjustable parameter λ (the length scale over which the ring's optical depth drops from order unity to zero at the edge). A treatment of the ring edges that takes into account their ridgelike structure retains the increase of ring mass of the order of ∼100 for a 10 km wide ring, while exhibiting weak dependence on λ. We conclude that a modified ChiangGoldreich model can likely account for the masses of narrow, eccentric planetary rings; however, the role of shepherd satellites both in forming ring edges and in altering the streamline precession conditions near them needs to be explored further. It is also unclear whether a fully selfconsistent ring model allows for the possibility of rings with negative eccentricity gradients.
 Publication:

Icarus
 Pub Date:
 August 2002
 DOI:
 10.1006/icar.2002.6878
 Bibcode:
 2002Icar..158..545M