Reports

What Perturbs the γδ Rings of Uranus?

Science  31 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4737, pp. 480-483
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4737.480

Abstract

The γ and δ rings have by far the largest radial perturbations of any of the nine known Uranian rings. These two rings deviate from Keplerian orbits, having typical root-mean-square residuals of about 3 kilometers (compared to a few hundred meters for the other seven known rings). Possible causes for the perturbations include nearby shepherd satellites and Lindblad resonances. If shepherd satellites are responsible, they could be as large as several tens of kilometers in diameter. The perturbation patterns of the γ and δ rings have been examined for evidence of Lindblad resonances of azimuthal wave number m = 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. The β ring radial residuals are well matched by a 2:1 Lindblad resonance. If this represents a real physical phenomenon and is not an artifact of undersampling, then the most plausible interpretation is that there is an undiscovered satellite orbiting 76,522 ± 8 kilometers from Uranus, with an orbital period of 15.3595 ± 0.0001 hours and a radius of 75 to 100 kilometers. Such a satellite would be easily detected by the Voyager spacecraft when it encounters Uranus. The 2:1 resonance location is 41 ± 9 kilometers inside the δ ring, which makes it unlikely that the resonance is due to a viscous instability within the ring. In contrast, no low-order Lindblad resonance matches the γ ring perturbations, which are probably caused by one or more shepherd satellites large enough to be clearly visible in Voyager images.

Related Content