Dust Detection Using Radio and Plasma Wave Instruments in the Solar System
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Nanometer to micrometer sized dust particles pervade our solar system. The origins of these dust particles include asteroid collisions, cometary activity, and geothermal activity of the planetary moons, for example, the water dust cloud ejected from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Radio and plasma wave instruments have been used to detect such dust particles via voltage pulses induced by impacts on the spacecraft body and antennas. The first detection of such dust impacts occurred when Voyager 1 passed through Saturn's ring plane. Since then, dust impacts have been detected by radio and plasma wave instruments on many spacecraft, including ISEE-3, Cassini, and STEREO. In this presentation, we review the detection of dust particles in the solar system using radio and plasma wave instruments aboard various spacecraft since the Voyager era. We also show characteristics of the dust particles derived from recent observations by Cassini RPWS in Saturn's magnetosphere. The dust size distribution and density are consistent with those measured by the conventional dust detectors. A new method of measuring the electron density inside the Enceladus plume based on plasma oscillations observed after dust impacts will also be discussed. The dust measurement by radio and plasma wave instruments complements that by conventional dust detectors and provide important information about the spatial distribution of dust particles due to less pointing constraints and the larger detection area.