Some comments on the F ring-Prometheus-Pandora environment
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The system formed by the F ring and two close satellites, Prometheus and Pandora, has been analysed since the time that Voyager visited the planet Saturn. During the ring plane crossing in 1995 the satellites were found in different positions as predicted by the Voyager data. Besides the mutual effects of Prometheus and Pandora, they are also disturbed by a massive F ring. Showalter et al. [Icarus 100 (1992) 394] proposed that, the core of the ring has a mass which corresponds to a moonlet varying in size from 15 to 70 kin in radius which can prevent the ring from spreading due to dissipative forces, such as Poynting-Robertson drag and collisions. We have divided this work into two parts. Firstly we analysed the secular interactions between Prometheus-Pandora and a massive F ring using the secular theory. Our results show the variation in eccentricity and inclination of the satellites and the F ring taking into account a massive ring corresponding to a moonlet of different sizes. There is also a population of dust particles in the ring in the company of moonlets at different sizes [Icarus 109 (1997) 304]. We also analysed the behaviour of these particles under the effects of the Poynting-Robertson drag and radiation pressure. Our results show that the time scale proposed for a dust particle to leave the ring is much shorter than predicted before even in the presence of a coorbital moonlet. This result does not agree with the confinement model proposed by Dermott et al. [Nature 284 (1980) 309]. In 2004, Cassini mission will perform repeated observations of the whole system, including observations of the satellites and the F ring environment. These data will help us to better understand this system. (C) 2003 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.