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Helios spacecraft data revisited: detection of cometary meteoroid trails by following in situ dust impacts

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Krüger,  Harald
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Strub,  Peter
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

Lohse,  Ann-Kathrin
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Krüger, H., Strub, P., Sommer, M., Altobelli, N., Kimura, H., Lohse, A.-K., et al. (2020). Helios spacecraft data revisited: detection of cometary meteoroid trails by following in situ dust impacts. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 643: A96. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202038935.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6522-1
Abstract
Context. Cometary meteoroid trails exist in the vicinity of comets, forming a fine structure of the interplanetary dust cloud. The trails consist predominantly of the largest cometary particles (with sizes of approximately 0.1 mm–1 cm), which are ejected at low speeds and remain very close to the comet orbit for several revolutions around the Sun. In the 1970s, two Helios spacecraft were launched towards the inner Solar System. The spacecraft were equipped with in situ dust sensors which measured the distribution of interplanetary dust in the inner Solar System for the first time. Recently, when re-analysing the Helios data, a clustering of seven impacts was found, detected by Helios in a very narrow region of space at a true anomaly angle of 135 ± 1°, which the authors considered as potential cometary trail particles. However, at the time, this hypothesis could not be studied further. Aims. We re-analyse these candidate cometary trail particles in the Helios dust data to investigate the possibility that some or all of them indeed originate from cometary trails and we constrain their source comets. Methods. The Interplanetary Meteoroid Environment for eXploration (IMEX) dust streams in space model is a new and recently published universal model for cometary meteoroid streams in the inner Solar System. We use IMEX to study the traverses of cometary trails made by Helios. Results. During ten revolutions around the Sun, the Helios spacecraft intersected 13 cometary trails. For the majority of these traverses the predicted dust fluxes are very low. In the narrow region of space where Helios detected the candidate dust particles, the spacecraft repeatedly traversed the trails of comets 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková and 72P/Denning-Fujikawa with relatively high predicted dust fluxes. The analysis of the detection times and particle impact directions shows that four detected particles are compatible with an origin from these two comets. By combining measurements and simulations we find a dust spatial density in these trails of approximately 10−8–10−7 m−3. Conclusions. The identification of potential cometary trail particles in the Helios data greatly benefited from the clustering of trail traverses in a rather narrow region of space. The in situ detection and analysis of meteoroid trail particles which can be traced back to their source bodies by spacecraft-based dust analysers provides a new opportunity for remote compositional analysis of comets and asteroids without the necessity to fly a spacecraft to or even land on those celestial bodies. This provides new science opportunities for future missions like DESTINY+ (Demonstration and Experiment of Space Technology for INterplanetary voYage with Phaethon fLyby and dUst Science), Europa Clipper, and the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe.