Our Dusty Universe with Dr Veerle Sterken

Photo of a planet with a bright purple glow emitting from behind
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Join us for a cross divisional introduction talk and guided conversation concerning the secrets of cosmic dust and how it is relevant for heliosphere science, planetary science, astrophysics and Earth's atmosphere.


"Interstellar dust and the heliosphere: synergies between adjacent fields of science”

In this talk we focus on the synergies between heliospheric and dust science, and on the space missions that can propel these two fields and their interrelations forward. We review the current state of knowledge of interstellar dust in the Local Interstellar Cloud and in the heliosphere, in particular of the last 20 years: our place in the local "dust" interstellar environment, the satellite measurements in the solar system, observations using astronomical methods, modelling efforts and the dust dynamics in the heliosphere. We then review the open and compelling science questions related to the dust-heliosphere interaction that are still open. We explain how an Interstellar Probe mission with an optimized dust suite is optimal for such measurements, and how the science yield can be enhanced by a simultaneous dust-and-plasma-properties measuring mission inside the solar system. Finally, we stress that this is a new emerging and promising topic in heliosphere research, with a lot of traction in Europe as well as in the USA.

Introduction to our Guest Speaker:

Dr. Veerle Sterken is a researcher from the ETH Zürich in Switzerland whose research focuses mainly on the dynamics of interstellar dust in the solar system. Originally educated as an aerospace engineer, she realized how important interplanetary dust impacts on satellites can be for the engineering of space missions. She then gradually drifted into unraveling the secrets of cosmic dust itself, as messengers or as tracers to resolve science questions from different fields like astronomy, heliosphere physics, and the history of the solar system and planets. Besides theoretical simulations, she also works with spacecraft in situ (dust) data, and has performed experiments with a dust accelerator to calibrate dust instrumentation. She co-authored several mission proposals and led an ESA F-class mission proposal (DOLPHIN) in 2022, with the main aim to investigate interplanetary and interstellar dust, and its interactions with the heliosphere. DOLPHIN would have flown out of the ecliptic plane, crossing it from time to time in its orbital nodes. She is the principal investigator of the European Research Council Starting Grant ASTRODUST (N◦ 851544) on the topic of the interstellar dust interaction with the heliosphere.

Registration for this Online event is required and will close 24 hours before the event. You may register at Our Dusty Universe with Dr Veerle Sterken Tickets, Thu, Jan 12, 2023 at 4:00 PM | Eventbrite

The point of contact for this event is Abigail Rymer, who may be reached at abigail.m.rymer@nasa.gov.

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