Orbital resonance in a dissipative medium

Richard Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Orbital resonances tend to force bodies into noncircular orbits. If a body is also under the influence of an eccentricity-reducing medium, it will experience a secular change in semimajor axis which may be positive or negative depending on whether its orbit is exterior or interior to that of the perturbing body. Thus a dissipative medium can promote either a loss or a gain in orbital energy. This process may explain the resonant structure of the asteroid belt and of Saturn's rings. For reasonable early solar system parameters, it would clear a gap near the 2:1 resonance with Jupiter on a time scale of a few thousand years; the gap width would be comparable to the Kirkwood gap presently at the location in the asteroid belt. Similarly, a gap comparable in width to Cassini's division would be cleared in Saturn's rings at the 2:1 resonance with Mimas in ∼106 yr. Most of the material from the gap would be deposited at the outer edge of ring B. The process would also affect the radial distribution of preplanetary material. Moreover, it provides an explanation for the large amplitude of the Titan-Hyperion libration. Consideration of the effects of dissipation on orbits near the stable L4 and L5 points of the restricted three-body problem indicates that energy loss causes particles to move away from these points. This results explains the large amplitude of Trojan asteroids about these points and the possible capture of Trojan into orbit about Jupiter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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