Scattering properties of dust in Orion and Epsilon Eridani exoplanetary system
Mendillo, Christopher B.
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Dust grain properties were investigated in two very different Galactic environments: the interstellar medium and an exoplanetary system. Two sounding rocket missions were developed to study these regions. Wide-field observations of the Orion OB stellar association were performed in the far-ultraviolet using the Spectrograph for Photometric Imaging with Numeric Reconstruction (SPINR) sounding rocket. These observations reveal the diffuse signature of starlight scattering off interstellar dust grains. The spectral-imaging data were used along with a three-dimensional radiative transfer model to measure the dust scattering parameters: the grain albedo (a) and the scattering asymmetry (g). The measured parameters are consistent with previous measurements made toward Orion. A sharp increase in albedo was measured at 〜1330 A. This feature is not explained by current grain models. The constructed three-dimensional model of Orion includes a two-component dust distribution. The foreground distribution is responsible for the small amount of visible reddening measured toward the bright stars in the Orion constellation.The background distribution represents the Orion Molecular Cloud, which dominates observations of dust emission in the infrared. This model was used to show that backscattered light from the molecular cloud alone cannot produce the observed scattered light distribution. The foreground dust, though optically thin in the visible, significantly contributes to the scattered light in the far-ultraviolet. This suggests that observations of Orion in the infrared and far-ultraviolet may probe entirely different dust populations. The Planetary Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Rocket Experiment (PICTURE) sounding rocket was developed to characterize dust grains in the nearby Epsilon Eridani exoplanetary system. This is a young, dusty system with a Jupiter-massed planet orbiting at 〜3.4 AU (astronomical units). PICTURE sought to capture a direct, visible-light image of dust-scattered starlight in this system with the aid of a high-contrast nulling coronagraph. The design and laboratory testing of the PICTURE science payload is presented. Although the mission returned no science data, several important technological advances were made to enable future direct imaging missions. Most notably, PICTURE demonstrated 5.1 milliarcsecond pointing stability using a fast optical tracking system.