Nanodust particles in the interplanetary medium

Nanodust Particles in the Interplanetary Medium
The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) spacecraft in an artist's conception, also showing a coronal mass ejection. Astronomers have discovered that these ejections accelerate and concentrate nanodust particles in the interplanetary medium, a conclusion derived from STEREO instruments that observed an increase in the rate of nanodust impacts on the spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Dust particles smaller than about a wavelength of light are abundant in our solar system, created by collisions between asteroids and from the evaporation of comets. As they scatter sunlight, these particles produce the zodiacal light, the glow in the night sky that stretches along the zodiac. The zodiacal light is most easily seen after sunset or before sunrise, though it is faint enough that even moonlight can mask it. Nanodust particles are about ten times smaller than normal dust—too small to efficiently scatter sunlight. They can be sensed by spacecraft, however, because when they impact the spacecraft they generate puffs of ionized gas and electrical pulses that instruments can detect. The Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft has been detecting nanodust pulses since its launch in 2007, and previous studies of these events have confirmed the general picture that these tiny particles are an important constituent of the solar system.

The corona of the Sun, the hot (over a million kelvin), gaseous outer region of its atmosphere, is threaded by intense magnetic fields. The fields loop and twist, stirred by the motions of the hot gas in the underlying atmosphere. When these loops snap, they eject energetic charged particles into the solar wind in events called . Nanodust particles carry a slight electric charge, and because of that, the solar wind should be able to redistribute them as it blows toward Earth through interplanetary space.

CfA astronomer Gaetan Le Chat and his colleagues have analyzed seven years of data on nanodust obtained from the STEREO spacecraft and found that coronal mass ejections do indeed appear to accelerate and concentrate nanodust particles, leading to increased rates of impact on the spacecraft during periods of solar activity. The scientists also noted longer-term, regular variations in the rate of nanodust impacts, and propose from the periodic behavior that the gravitational influences of Mercury and Venus are responsible, perhaps by perturbing the tails of comets that have passed through the inner solar system, leading to a higher production of nanodust.

Explore further

Tiny dust particles in the solar system

More information: "On the Effect of the Interplanetary Medium on Nanodust Observations by the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory," G. Le Chat, K. Issautier, A. Zaslavsky, F. Pantellini, N. Meyer-Vernet, S. Belheouane, and M. Maksimovic, Solar Physics, 2015. … /2015SoPh..290..933L
Journal information: Solar Physics

Citation: Nanodust particles in the interplanetary medium (2015, March 9) retrieved 24 May 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 09, 2015
The consideration of the electrodynamic properties of the nanodust is of profound importance in cosmology. The proper consideration of this material renders the need for DM to be moot. One of these days astrophysicists will analyze the lab data and figure it out, sadly it will likely take fifty years or so.


Mar 09, 2015
If ya wanna drive....85, then go to Utah where those morons...I mean Mormons..doo it on Interstate 15 when not chasing prospective wives number 3, 4, and five. ! it because they are running away from wives 10 and 2 after they caught you with wife 4. Naww that sounds like a Dr Pepper commercial, a realllly olde one.

Mar 09, 2015
By the way, just what IS 'DM'. Is it related to Dystopic Meditationi.?

Mar 09, 2015
Nanodust will have a profound impact on high speed space travel thru normal space. Thru Alcubierre space warps maybe not so much as long as shielding field strength is appropriately sized to warp field strength. Since ships at warp are not classicly translating....moving, then need for inertial dampening is not significant. What CAN affect ships at warp are large objects, so good scouting and dynamic space maps are a necessity. Even ET has to scout. Some people taken aboard of starships for a time have reported being told of 'scouting or exploration' missions. Obviously these take a lot of time as the map one was shown depicted such a long term scouting mission. Such may be a series of jumps by unmanned craft that report back to their mothership of success, failure, or do not report and are presumed lost. Such reporting is most likely quantum link commo so not much chance SETI will ever hear it. Nanodust will probably add a lower than 'c' so called 'limit' caused by drag.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more