TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 62 (No. 1), pp. 17-21, 2010

Comet dust as a mixture of aggregates and solid particles: model consistent with ground-based and space-mission results

Ludmilla Kolokolova1 and Hiroshi Kimura2

1Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20740, USA
2Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0819, Japan

(Received July 24, 2008; Revised December 8, 2008; Accepted December 8, 2008; Online published February 12, 2010)

Abstract: The most successful model of comet dust presents comet particles as aggregates of submicron grains. It qualitatively explains the spectral and angular change in the comet brightness and polarization and is consistent with the thermal infrared data and composition of the comet dust obtained in situ for comet 1P/Halley. However, it experiences some difficulties in providing a quantitative fit to the observational data. Here we present a model that considers comet dust as a mixture of aggregates and compact particles. The model is based on the Giotto and Stardust mission findings that both aggregates (made mainly of organics, silicates, and carbon) and solid silicate particles are present in the comet dust. We simulate aggregates as Ballistic Cluster-Cluster Aggregates (BCCA) and compact particles as polydisperse spheroids with some distribution of the aspect ratio. The particles follow a power-law size distribution with the power -3 that is close to the one obtained for comet dust in situ, at studies of the Stardust returned samples, and the results of ground-based observations of comets. The model provides a good fit to the angular polarization curve. It also reproduces the positive spectral gradient of polarization, red color of the dust, and low albedo. It also has the ratio of compact to fluffy particles close to the one found in situ for comet 1P/Halley and the mass ratio of silicate to carbonaceous materials equal to unity that is in accordance with the elemental abundances of Halley's dust found by Giotto mission.
Key words: Comet, dust, polarization, aggregates, silicate, Stardust, Giotto.

Corresponding author E-mail: ludmilla@astro.umd.edu

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