New Dust Measurements throughout the Solar System

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:10 PM
Mihaly Horanyi, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States
Currently, there are 3 in situ dedicated instruments collecting data about the density and size distributions of dust in the solar system. The Student Dust Counter onboard the New Horizons Mission to Pluto continues makes measurements since 2006, cutting across the entire solar system. These measurements provide an opportunity to test our models about our own the dust disk, and compare it to dust disks around other stars. The Pluto encounter will happen in the summer of 2015, the mission will carry on beyond Pluto, and continue to make dust observations in the Kuiper belt.
The Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) onboard the Cassini mission continues to make observations since 2004, mapping the dust distributions near Saturn. CDA is also capable to identify the chemical composition of the impacting particles, clearly identifying water ice as the composition of particles in Saturn’s E-ring. One of its most exciting discoveries to date is the identification of other minor constituents of the particles in addition to water ice, resulting in the unambiguous conclusion about the existence of a liquid ocean underneath the ice crust of Enceladus.
The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) in orbit about the moon onboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explore (LADEE) mission. LDEX maps the lunar dust exosphere that is sustained by the continual bombardment of the lunar surface by interplanetary dust particles.

This talk will report on the recent observation by all three instruments: SDC, CDA and LDEX, and discuss how the measurements can be used to improve our theoretical models about the dust environment in the Kuiper belt, at Saturn, and near the Moon, respectively. We will also discuss the intimate relationships between these measurements, and argue that the entire body of these observations, and measurements made by previous dust instruments can be used to learn about the sources, sinks, and transport of dust in the solar system.

This work was supported by NASA’s New Horizons, Cassini, and LADEE missions, and by the SSERVI Institute for Modeling Plasmas, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT).