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Paper: Planetary Rings
Volume: 272, The Future of Solar System Exploration, 2003-2013: Community Contributions to the NRC Solar System Exploration Decadal Survey
Page: 263
Authors: Gordon, M.K.; Araki, S.; Black, G.J.; Bosh, A.S.; Brahic, A.; Brooks, S.M.; Charnoz, S.; Colwell, J.E.; Cuzzi, J.N.; Dones, L.; Durisen, R.H.; Esposito, L.W.; Ferrari, C.; Festou, M.; French, R.G.; Giuliatti-Winter, S.M.; Graps, A.L.; Hamilton, D.P.; Horanyi, M.; Karjalainen, R.M.; Krivov, A.V.; Kruger, H.; Larson, S.M.; Levison, H.F.; Lewis, M.C.; Lissauer, J.J.; Murray, C.D.; Namouni, F.; Nicholson, P.D.; Olkin, C.B.; Poulet, F.; Rappaport, N.J.; Salo, H.J.; Schmidt, J.; Showalter, M.R.; Spahn, F.; Spilker, L.J.; Srama, R.; Stewart, G.R.; Yanamandra-Fisher, P.
Abstract: The past two decades have witnessed dramatic changes in our view and understanding of planetary rings. We now know that each of the giant planets in the Solar System possesses a complex and unique ring system. Recent studies have identified complex gravitational interactions between the rings and their retinues of attendant satellites. Among the four known ring systems, we see elegant examples of Lindblad and corotation resonances (first invoked in the context of galactic disks), electromagnetic resonances, spiral density waves and bending waves, narrow ringlets which exhibit internal modes due to collective instabilities, sharpedged gaps maintained via tidal torques from embedded moonlets, and tenuous dust belts created by meteoroid impact onto, or collisions between, parent bodies. Yet, as far as we have come, our understanding is far from complete. The fundamental questions confronting ring scientists at the beginning of the twenty-first century are those regarding the origin, age and evolution of the various ring systems, in the broadest context. Understanding the origin and age requires us to know the current ring properties, and to understand the dominant evolutionary processes and how they influence ring properties. Here we discuss a prioritized list of the key questions, the answers to which would provide the greatest improvement in our understanding of planetary rings. We then outline the initiatives, missions, and other supporting activities needed to address those questions, and recommend priorities for the coming decade in planetary ring science.
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