Simulating gravitational resonances in
planetary ring systems. 

Dr. Michael L. Cobb (mlcobb at

Computers are getting fast enough and software good enough that meaningful simulations can be done on the desktop.

Cassini picture of back lit rings around Saturn.  Notice the dust halo caused from dust particles scattered out of the disk by Saturn's various moons.


These simulations can be used to model a planet/moon system, a star/planet system, or spiral waves in galaxies as the geometry scales accordingly.


Computer simulations using VPython consists of 10,000 non interacting particles in initially circular orbits affected by the gravity of the planet and moon only.  Notice the moon creates gaps not rings.  The scattered particles form a halo around the planet.  The frame of reference has been fixed in the moon's reference frame so the moon appears stationary while the particles stream past.


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