The size distribution of Arecibo interstellar particles and its implications

David D. Meisel, Diego Janches, John D. Mathews

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Scopus citations


    Size histograms of all Arecibo ultra-high-frequency radar micrometeors detected in 1997-1998 whose radii were measured by atmospheric drag are presented. Most can be fitted with either a lognormal function or, alternatively, one or more power-law functions. Either form is indicative of significant fragmentation. The interplanetary dust particle (IDP) histogram results are discussed and compared with those considered to be extrasolar particles, including a subset of those deemed to be true interstellar particles (ISPs). The Arecibo IDP power-law results are shown to agree well with those derived from IRAS dust bands and Long-Duration Exposure Facility cratering, thus confirming the applicability of the sample to the derivation of mass estimates. A dichotomy between size histograms of particles with preperihelion Earth encounters and those with postperihelion encounters is evidence that significant size histogram change occurs when the smallest particles, including all ISPs, pass close to the Sun, even if only once. A small sample of previously undetected Arecibo postperihelion ISPs coming from the direction of the known Ulysses gas and dust flow are shown to have a size distribution and solar system dynamical properties similar to other Arecibo ISPs and therefore can be combined with previous ISP results to obtain a more robust sample. Derived mass flux points for the Arecibo ISPs agree well (over 5 orders of magnitude of mass) with a previously derived mass flux distribution function for Ulysses/Galileo spacecraft dust. This combined spacecraft and ground-based mass flux function is then used to infer a number of interesting mass-related solar system and astrophysical quantities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)895-904
    Number of pages10
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number2 I
    StatePublished - Nov 10 2002

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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