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New Horizons/Student Dust Counter Measurements: The Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt at 55 AU Heliocentric Distance

Presentation #209.05 in the session TNO Theory/Formation and Observational Surveys (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
New Horizons/Student Dust Counter Measurements: The Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt at 55 AU Heliocentric Distance

New Horizons Spacecraft’s Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC) is mapping the dust size and density distribution across the solar system. SDC measures dust grains with mass > 10-12 grams, and it is now traveling beyond 55 au, (Bernardoni 2022). According to our current understanding, the Kuiper Belt is the dominant source of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) in the outer solar system due to collisions between Kuiper Belt objects, as well as their continual bombardment by interstellar dust particles (ISD) (Yamamoto, 1997).

The SDC instrument is based on Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) impact detectors. PVDF detectors were first used on the Vega 1 and 2 missions to comet 1P/Halley.

We present the latest SDC dust density and size distributions, and the flux measurements through 55 au and compare them to numerical model predictions. SDC observed a peak dust flux and density near 42 au; as we show, continued measurements through 55 au are beginning to show a deviation from the initial models with higher than model-prediction dust fluxes in this distance range. Ongoing SDC measurements at even larger heliocentric distances continue to constrain the relative contribution of dust production in a putative outer extension of the Kuiper Belt and the direct detection of the incoming ISD flux. Continued SDC measurements remain crucial for understanding large-scale structures of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt and our interpretation of dust disks around other stars.

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