Radiation pressure and the Poynting-Robertson effect for fluffy dust particles

Hiroshi Kimura, Hajime Okamoto, Tadashi Mukai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


A correct understanding of the dynamical effect of solar radiation exerted on fluffy dust particles can be achieved with assistance of a light scattering theory as well as the equation of motion. We reformulate the equation of motion so that the radiation pressure and the Poynting-Robertson effect on fluffy grains are given in both radial and nonradial directions from the center of the Sun. This allows numerical estimates of these radiation forces on fluffy dust aggregates in the framework of the discrete dipole approximation, in which the first term of the scattering coefficients in Mie theory determines the polarizability of homogeneous spheres forming the aggregates. The nonsphericity in shape turns out to play a key role in the dynamical evolution of dust particles, while its consequence depends on the rotation rate and axis of the grains. Unless a fluffy dust particle rapidly revolves on its randomly oriented axis, the nonradial radiation forces may prevent, apart from the orbital eccentricity and semimajor axis, the orbital inclination of the particle from being preserved in orbit around the Sun. However, a change in the inclination is most probably controlled by the Lorentz force as a consequence of the interaction between electric charges on the grains and the solar magnetic field. Although rapidly and randomly rotating grains spiral into the Sun under the Poynting-Robertson effect in spite of their shapes and structures, fluffy grains drift inward on time scales longer at submicrometer sizes and shorter at much larger sizes than spherical grains of the same sizes. Numerical calculations reveal that the dynamical lifetimes of fluffy particles are determined by the material composition of the grains rather than by their morphological structures and sizes. The Poynting-Robertson effect alone is nevertheless insufficient for giving a satisfactory estimate of lifetimes for fluffy dust grains since their large ratios of cross section to mass would reduce the lifetimes by enhancing the collisional probabilities. We also show that the radiation pressure on a dust particle varies with the orbital velocity of the particle but that this effect is negligibly small for dust grains in the Solar System.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-361
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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