EDP Sciences
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Volume 429, Number 2, January II 2005
Page(s) 371 - 381
Section Astrophysical processes
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200400081

A&A 429, 371-381 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200400081

Modelling the optical properties of composite and porous interstellar grains

N. V. Voshchinnikov1, 2, V. B. Il'in1, 2 and Th. Henning3

1  Sobolev Astronomical Institute, St. Petersburg University, Universitetskii prosp. 28, St. Petersburg 198504, Russia
    e-mail: nvv@astro.spbu.ru
2  Isaac Newton Institute of Chile, St. Petersburg Branch, Russia
3  Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

(Received 3 March 2003 / Accepted 16 August 2004)

There are indications that interstellar and interplanetary dust grains have an inhomogeneous and fluffy structure. We investigate different methods to describe light scattering by such composite particles. Both a model of layered particles and discrete dipole calculations for particles with Rayleigh and non-Rayleigh inclusions are used.

The calculations demonstrate that porosity is a key parameter for determining light scattering. We find that the optical properties of the layered particles depend on the number and position of layers if the number of layers is small ( $\la $15). For a larger number of layers the scattering characteristics become independent of the layer sequence. The optical properties of particles with inclusions depend on the size of inclusions provided the porosity is large. The scattering characteristics of very porous particles with inclusions of different sizes are found to be close to those of multi-layered spheres.

We compare the results of these calculations with the predictions of the effective medium theories (EMT) which are often used in astronomy as a tool to calculate the optical properties of composite particles. The results of our analysis show that the internal structure of grains (layers versus inclusions) only slightly affects the optics of particles provided the porosity does not exceed 50%. It is also demonstrated that in this case the optical properties of composite grains calculated with EMT agree with the results of the exact method for layered particles. For larger porosity, the standard EMT rules (i.e., Garnett and Bruggeman rules) give reliable results for particles with Rayleigh inclusions only.

Key words: scattering -- dust, extinction -- comets -- interplanetary medium

© ESO 2004

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