eSpace Webinar - Astrophysical dust measurements in our cosmic backyard, by Veerle Sterken - IPA ETHZ
Interplanetary dust is measured in situ in the solar system since several decades, using dedicated cosmic dust instruments on-board spacecraft with a variety of orbits. Also interstellar dust from our neighbouring Local Interstellar Cloud passes through the solar system and was measured in situ for the first time almost 30 years ago. Such in situ measurements - only half a decade old - have revolutionised the field of astrophysical dust science. Besides in situ measurements, also meteor observations, sample return missions, and astronomical observations have shaped our current understanding of the astrophysical dust environment in our immediate cosmic neighbourhood.
This talk discusses the field of in situ cosmic dust science: we cover the fascinating facets of "fairly nearby" cosmic dust and its importance for our understanding of the solar system, from icy comets to atmosphereless bodies, active moons, and interstellar dust. Then we will focus on the different types of cosmic dust instruments that exist so far, their working principles, capabilities, and their limitations. Finally, we give an overview of future missions that are in the planning or under study, like the Interstellar Probe, and we elaborate on a few of the still existing gaps in our nearby-cosmic-dust knowledge. This way, we can tailor future mission and instrument designs towards bridging these gaps.
Veerle Sterken is originally from Belgium, studied Aerospace Engineering in the Netherlands, and did her PhD on cosmic dust science at the TU Braunschweig in Germany, while being a guest at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. After her PhD studies, she moved to Switzerland where she was a post-doc in the International Space Science Institute. Now she is a senior research assistant at the ETH in Zürich, focusing on simulations and measurements of the dynamics of interstellar dust particles that move from the Local Interstellar Cloud through the heliosphere. She kicked off a major project in 2020 on this topic, supported by the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant).