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Libration driven elliptical instability

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The elliptical instability is a generic instability which takes place in any rotating flow whose streamlines are elliptically deformed. Up to now, it has been widely studied in the case of a constant, non-zero differential rotation between the fluid and the elliptical distortion with applications in turbulence, aeronautics, planetology, and astrophysics. In this letter, we extend previous analytical studies and report the first numerical and experimental evidence that elliptical instability can also be driven by libration, i.e., periodic oscillations of the differential rotation between the fluid and the elliptical distortion, with a zero mean value. Our results suggest that intermittent, space-filling turbulence due to this instability can exist in the liquid cores and subsurface oceans of so-called synchronized planets and moons. © 2012 American Institute of Physics.

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