Sources of interplanetary dust

  • Fred L. Whipple
5 Dynamics and Evolution
Part of the Lecture Notes in Physics book series (LNP, volume 48)


Attention is centered on cosmic dust measures made by sensors on Pioneers 8 and 9 in Earth-like orbits. The conclusion follows Zook and Berg that the particles are largely “β-meteoroids,” interplanetary impact debris expelled by solar radiation pressure. An analysis of periodic comet orbits and comets observed during the missions failed to yield correlations, except possibly for debris from Comet Encke. A treatment of β-meteoroids from this stream is presented.

The solar-centered maximum impact rate is considered and indicates that formation of the observed β-meteoroids occurs more at solar distances greater than 0.5 AU rather than less.

The interesting variation of observed pulse heights with impact direction is analyzed and qualitatively explained in terms of a narrow distribution function of particle masses among the β-meteoroids with a maximum † log N/† log m near or below 10−13 gm, in general agreement with lunar microcratering data. The mean pulse-height appears to increase when the mass sampling veers towards a minimum in the normal distribution at greater masses.

The observations appear consistent with the author's early conclusion that the interplanetary particles are largely of cometary origin, collision being the major destructive process.


Pulse Height Heliocentric Distance Solar Radiation Pressure Space Density Cosmic Dust 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred L. Whipple
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Astrophysics Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian Astrophysical ObservatoryCambridge

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