Dust ring discovered in Mercury’s orbit

Posted: March 14, 2019 by oldbrew in solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Image credit: Wikipedia

The next step is to find the source(s) of the dust, with as yet undetected asteroids thought to be the leading suspects.

Two dusty discoveries may shake up our understanding of the inner solar system, says Fox News.

Mercury shares its supertight orbit with a big ring of wandering dust, a recent study suggests. And a cloud of as-yet-undiscovered asteroids likely gave rise to a similar halo in Venus’ neighborhood, another new paper concludes.

“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” Marc Kuchner, a co-author of the Venus study and an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. “This is right in our neighborhood.”

A ring very close to the sun

Both Earth and Venus have collected co-orbiting dust rings, as the planets have shepherded the particles with powerful gravitational tugs. Mercury’s path, however, was thought to be free of such a feature.

“People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the sun to capture a dust ring,” Guillermo Stenborg, a solar scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., said in the same statement. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”

But Stenborg and his colleagues shattered that expectation. The researchers analyzed images captured by one of NASA’s twin Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft, both of which launched into orbit around the sun in 2006.

The researchers created a model based on these photos in an attempt to “edit out” dust that could make it more difficult to understand the data gathered by STEREO, NASA’s recently launched Parker Solar Probe and other sun-studying craft.

When they applied the model to the STEREO imagery, the astronomers saw dust — a lot more of it than they anticipated.

“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” co-author Russell Howard, also a solar scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, said in the same statement. “All around the sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same 5 percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the sun.”

The team calculated that the dust ring is about 9.3 million miles (15 million kilometers) wide. The researchers reported their results last November in The Astrophysical Journal.

Continued here.

  1. Jim says:

    Interestingly, then, have the astronomy union, said anything about this? One of the requirements in the old definitions of a planet was clearing it’s orbital path. Are we in to downgrading to a minor planet?

  2. oldbrew says:

    Dust rings are common in the solar system, e.g. Uranus has at least 13.


  3. ivan says:

    Is it just me but reading the extract it appears that they don’t have any real observations we performed a numerical differentiation of the brightness profiles along the photometric axis of the F-corona models but are doing the current scientific fad of using models – not the best way of learning anything.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Yes, the abstract says: ‘the brightness increase over the background F-corona is on the order of 1.5%–2.5%, which implies an excess dust density of about 3%–5% at the center of the ring.’ [bold added]


  5. gbaikie says:

    “But such dust rings are extremely diffuse. For example, Venus’ co-orbiting halo is just 10 percent denser than the surrounding space, NASA officials said in the same statement. And if you packed all of that ring’s dust together, you’d get an asteroid just 2 miles (3.2 km) across.”

    So our solar system has a lot space rocks and dust. Space rocks smaller than small cars hit earth in time scales of months. And material the size a pebbles are shooting stars you see and space dust impacting earth has too small effect to observe [and/or lack enough mass to burn up/vaporize in our atmosphere]
    The main asteroid belt has lots of rocks and dust, but if you fly thru the asteroid belt, you don’t see it, what see is rocks which look stars, but it’s not region with more “stars” nor is there significant chance of randomly hitting any of it. Or Hollywood’s version of asteroid belt is completely absurd- or they completely ignore the effects of gravity over time periods of hours to days.

    It seems having 10 percent denser amount of dust is having more dust with same year period of the planet. And in terms of larger rocks, we call these quasi moons of Earth, several have been found and we will find more of them.

    What find interesting is possibility of finding quasi moons around Venus and Mercury and if there is dust, then it’s more likely there are some quasi moons. Or to say it differently, if there is quasi moons
    then there has to be dust.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Dwarf planet Haumea has rings, ‘likely the result of a collision sometime in the distant past’.

    [see no. 4 of 12]

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Gravity – Mass/Inertia is an artifact created by Mater. We think of it as a point source as if the center of a body is that point, but in fact the point source of it’s origin is the atomic nucleus. So the effects of Gravity – Mass/Inertia from say the Sun occur in regions of density of forces in rings around that body. Planets form from localized concentrations of the “Dust” within the those regions of force concentrations…pg

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    Guess I should continue with this song of the ringing of the spheres.
    We know that Atoms have regions of force that surround the proton. We say that packets of energy ” Electrons” occupy those regions/shells of force. If the energy gets too high in the shell, a Gama ray or Photon of energy is spit out at the local speed of light. or the escape velocity from that atomic nucleus. This energy can be absorbed into a neighboring shell to overload it to cause another energy jump. these jumps take on a local harmonic frequency not only from the element involved but the harmonic frequency caused by the size and density of the body. This also results in changes in the density or effect of Gravity – Mass/Inertia that surround that body…pg.

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