Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Collisions in Space: Dust directionality and interplanetary dust populations detected by Parker Solar Probe Public Deposited

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  • Parker Solar Probe (PSP) has completed six orbits in its pioneering mission to collect data closer to the Sun than any mission before it. The data it returns will help us better understand the mechanisms of the corona and the origins of the solar wind, but they will also give us a glimpse into a previously hard-to-probe dust population. The study of dust in the solar system influences our understanding of system formation as well as our ability to properly engineer spacecraft to withstand the bombardment of matter in space. Theo- ries and previous missions have indicated that there are several types of dust populations, including circular dust on bound orbits and β-meteoroids on escape trajectories that de- pend largely on their size and composition. PSP is sending back information about these dust populations that we could not get from a near-Earth orbit or the ground. In the first five orbits, we see that that dust count rates track with the orbital groups based on orbital parameters of PSP’s shrinking orbit. In particular, the first three orbits have a single, pre-perihelion peak in the counts, but Orbits 4-5 have two distinct count peaks to either side of perihelion. We closely examine data from Orbit 4 to determine a possible origin of the second peak. We construct histograms that indicate the directionality of dust impacts and note an anti-ram anomaly in the post-perihelion orbit. The presence of this anomaly may indicate another dust population other than the ambient circular dust and β-meteoroids, and we suggest the origin is in the dust trail of the asteroid 3200-Pheathon.

Date Awarded
  • 2020-10-30
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Last Modified
  • 2021-04-27
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