dust and nanodust

12 March 2015
Astronomy

An interesting piece of research – see http://phys.org/print345105547.html …. we've all heard of the dust in space created by comets and asteroids on their journeys through the solar system, outgassing and the like. This is the dust which scatters sunlight to produce the zodiacal lights, the glow in the night sky along the line of the zodiac. We all know this light was once more pronounced as a result of lots of comets and meteor streams, so much so the pyramid light formation gave rise to pyramidal buildings on Earth. Hence, it is almost certain there were more comets and meteors in the 3rd millennium BC than at present – as the zodiacal light is muted. The dust is produced from comet tails and outgassing events that give birth to a succession of meteor streams (trails of dust).

However, and there is always a however, which is good. There is a lot more of what is being described as nanodust (particles much smaller than dust grains) out there in space. These are mostly invisible and they are unable to scatter sunlight to illuminate their presence. Spaceships have encountered nanodust on many occasions – so it does exist. They generate puffs of ionised gas and electrical pulses that onboard instruments detect.

Coronal mass ejections appear to blow nanodust and accelerate it before and to the side of the solar wind. This is an obvious fact – as the solar wind also has the ability to drive dust size particles before it also, sweeping them up like a broom and depositing them elsewhere – with most of it splayed sidewards. However, that word again, the authors of the study also noted another regular variation in the presence of nanodust particles visiting space stations. They have theorised that planets such as Mercury and Venus have the ability to tweak the tails of nanodust.

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