The dynamic neptunian ring arcs: evidence for a gradual disappearance of Liberté and resonant jump of courage
We present Adaptive Optics observations of Neptune's ring system at 1.6 and 2.2 μm, taken with the 10-m W.M. Keck II telescope in July 2002 and October 2003. We recovered the full Adams and Le Verrier rings for the first time since the Voyager era (1989), and show that the overall appearance of these rings did not change much, except for the ring arcs. Both the location and intensity of all arcs changed drastically relative to trailing arc Fraternité, which has a mean orbital motion of 820.1118 ± 0.0001 deg/day, equal to that of Nicholson et al.'s (1995, Icarus 113, 295-330) solution 2. Our data suggest that all arcs may have decayed over the last decade, while Liberté, in 2003, may be on the verge of disappearing completely. The observed changes in the relative intensities and locations of all arcs further indicate that material is migrating between resonance sites; leading arc Courage, for example, has jumped ˜8°, or, when adopting Namouni and Porco's (2002, Nature 417, 45-47) CER (corotation eccentricity resonance) theory, it advanced by one full corotation potential maximum. Overall, our observations reveal a system that is surprisingly dynamic, and no comprehensive theory exists as of yet that can explain all the observed intricacies.