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Propeller Peregrinations: Ongoing Observations of Disk-Embedded Migration In Saturn's Rings

Published Article
American Astronomical Society, DDA meeting
Publication Date
May 27, 2016
SETI Institute


The "propeller" moons within Saturn's rings are the first objects ever to have their orbits tracked while embedded in a disk, rather than moving through empty space (Tiscareno et al. 2010, ApJL). The km-sized "giant propellers" whose orbits have been tracked in the outer-A ring, as well as their smaller 0.1-km-sized brethren swarming in the mid-A ring, are not seen directly; rather, their locations are inferred by means of the propeller-shaped disturbances they create in the surrounding ring material (Tiscareno et al. 2006, Nature; Sremcevic et al. 2007, Nature; Tiscareno et al. 2008, AJ). The orbits of giant propellers are primarily Keplerian, but with clear excursions of up to several degrees longitude over a decade of observations. Most theories that have been proposed to explain the non-Keplerian motion of propeller moons (e.g., Pan et al. 2012, MNRAS; Tiscareno 2013, P&SS) rely on gravitational and/or collisional interactions between the moon and the surrounding disk, and thus hold out the prospect for directly observing processes that are important in protoplanetary scenarios and other disk systems. We will review the current dynamical models and report on recent ongoing observations by the Cassini imaging camera.

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