Volume 586, February 2016
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Published online||02 February 2016|
Detection and measurement of micrometeoroids with LISA Pathfinder
1 Gravitational Astrophysics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
2 Department of Aerospace Engineering, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
3 Meteorites, Minor Bodies and Planetary Sciences Group, Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC), Campus UAB Bellaterra, Carrer de Can Magrans, s/n 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallés Barcelona, Spain
Received: 28 October 2015
Accepted: 23 December 2015
The Solar System contains a population of dust and small particles originating from asteroids, comets, and other bodies. These particles have been studied using a number of techniques ranging from in-situ satellite detectors to analysis of lunar microcraters to ground-based observations of zodiacal light. In this paper, we describe an approach for using the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission as an instrument to detect and characterize the dynamics of dust particles in the vicinity of Earth-Sun L1. Launched on Dec. 3rd, 2015, LPF is a dedicated technology demonstrator mission that will validate several key technologies for a future space-based gravitational-wave observatory. The primary science instrument aboard LPF is a precision accelerometer which we show will be capable of sensing discrete momentum impulses as small as 4 × 10-8 N s. We then estimate the rate of such impulses resulting from impacts of micrometeoroids based on standard models of the micrometeoroid environment in the inner solar system. We find that LPF may detect dozens to hundreds of individual events corresponding to impacts of particles with masses >10-9g during LPF’s roughly six-month science operations phase in a 5 × 105 km by 8 × 105 km Lissajous orbit around L1. In addition, we estimate the ability of LPF to characterize individual impacts by measuring quantities such as total momentum transferred, direction of impact, and location of impact on the spacecraft. Information on flux and direction provided by LPF may provide insight as to the nature and origin of the individual impact and help constrain models of the interplanetary dust complex in general. Additionally, this direct in situ measurement of micrometeoroid impacts will be valuable to designers of future spacecraft targeting the environment around L1.
Key words: meteorites, meteors, meteoroids / instrumentation: miscellaneous
© ESO, 2016
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