DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 11. Planetary Rings I
Oral, Chairs: L. Spilker and C. B. Olkin, Wednesday, September 3, 2003, 1:30-3:00pm, DeAnza III

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[11.09] Jupiter's Gossamer Rings Explained.

D.P. Hamilton (U. Maryland)

Over the past several years, Galileo measurements and groundbased imaging have drastically improved our knowledge of Jupiter's faint ring system. We now recognize that the ring consists of four components: a main ring 7000km wide, whose inner edge blossoms into a vertically-extended halo, and a pair of more tenuous Gossamer rings, one associated with each of the small moons Thebe and Amalthea. When viewed edge on, the Gossamer rings appear as diaphanous disks whose thicknesses agree with the vertical excursions of the inclined satellites from the equatorial plane. In addition, the brightness of each Gossamer ring drops off sharply outside the satellite orbits. These correlations allowed Burns etal (1999, Science, 284, 1146) to argue convincingly that the satellites act as sources of the dusty ring material. In addition, since most material is seen inside the orbits of the source satellites, an inwardly-acting dissipative force such as Poynting-Robertson drag is implicated.

The most serious problem with this simple and elegant picture is that it is unable to explain the existence of a faint swath of material that extends half a jovian radius outward from Thebe. A key constraint is that this material has the same thickness as the rest of the Thebe ring. In this work, we identify the mechanism responsible for the outward extension: it is a shadow resonance, first investigated by Horanyi and Burns (1991, JGR, 96, 19283). When a dust grain enters Jupiter's shadow, photoelectric processes shut down and the grain's electric charge becomes more negative. The electromagnetic forces associated with the varying charge cause periodic oscillations in the orbital eccentricity and semimajor axis as the orbital pericenter precesses. This results in a ring which spreads both inward and outward of its source satellite while preserving its vertical thickness - just as is observed for the Thebe ring. Predictions of the model are: i) gaps of micron-sized material interior to Thebe and Amalthea's orbits, ii) longitudinally asymmetric Gossamer rings, offset away from the Sun for positive grain charges, and iii) rings self-sustained by the energetic collisions of eccentrically-orbiting micron-sized ring particles with their source satellites. Conclusive evidence for the existence of central holes inward of Thebe and Amalthea was obtained by the Galileo Dust Detector during the ring "fly-through" of November 2002; hints of Thebe's gap are also visible in Galileo imaging.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.