The Role of Electrostatic Charging of Small and Intermediate Sized Bodies in the Solar System
The role of electrostatic charging of small and intermediate sized bodies in the solar system is reviewed. These bodies include planetary, interplanetary and cometary dust as well as cometary nuclei (at large heliocentric distances), asteroids and the larger bodies in the Saturnian ring system. While this charging has both physical and dynamical consequences for the small dust grains, it has only physical consequences for the larger bodies. The main physical consequences for the small grains are electrostatic erosion (“chipping”) and disruption, whereas for the larger bodies they include electrostatic levitation and blow-off of fine loose dust from their surfaces.
A large variety of solar system phenomena, recently observed by the Pioneer and Voyager deep space probes as well as the HEOS-2 earth satellite, are explained in terms of these processes. Certain peculiar features observed in the dust tails of comets as well as the spatial orientation of the zodiacal dust cloud may also be explained along these lines.
The possible electrostatic erosion of the dust mantles of new comets as well as the electrostatic “polishing” of the smaller aseteroids are also discussed.
KeywordsSolar Wind Interplanetary Magnetic Field Heliocentric Distance Electrostatic Charge Charged Dust
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