Space Science Reviews

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 401-408

First online:

Interstellar Dust in the Solar System

  • Harald KrügerAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für SonnensystemforschungMax-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik Email author 
  • , Markus LandgrafAffiliated withEuropean Space Agency, ESOC
  • , Nicolas AltobelliAffiliated withNASA/JPL
  • , Eberhard GrünAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für KernphysikHIGP, University of Hawaii

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The Ulysses spacecraft has been orbiting the Sun on a highly inclined ellipse almost perpendicular to the ecliptic plane (inclination 79°, perihelion distance 1.3 AU, aphelion distance 5.4 AU) since it encountered Jupiter in 1992. The in situ dust detector on board continuously measured interstellar dust grains with masses up to 10−13 kg, penetrating deep into the solar system. The flow direction is close to the mean apex of the Sun’s motion through the solar system and the grains act as tracers of the physical conditions in the local interstellar cloud (LIC). While Ulysses monitored the interstellar dust stream at high ecliptic latitudes between 3 and 5 AU, interstellar impactors were also measured with the in situ dust detectors on board Cassini, Galileo and Helios, covering a heliocentric distance range between 0.3 and 3 AU in the ecliptic plane. The interstellar dust stream in the inner solar system is altered by the solar radiation pressure force, gravitational focussing and interaction of charged grains with the time varying interplanetary magnetic field. We review the results from in situ interstellar dust measurements in the solar system and present Ulysses’ latest interstellar dust data. These data indicate a 30° shift in the impact direction of interstellar grains w.r.t. the interstellar helium flow direction, the reason of which is presently unknown.


Dust Interstellar dust Heliosphere Interstellar matter