Pristine PSP/WISPR Observations of the Circumsolar Dust Ring near Venus s Orbit
The Parker Solar Probe mission (PSP) has completed seven orbits around the Sun. The Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) on PSP consists of two visible light heliospheric imagers, which together image the interplanetary medium between 13°5 and 108° elongation. The PSP/WISPR nominal science observing window occurs during the solar encounters, which take place when the spacecraft (S/C) is within 0.25 au from the Sun. During Orbit 3, an extended science campaign took place while PSP transited between 0.5 and 0.25 au (during both inbound and outbound orbit segments). PSP mission operations implemented a variety of 180° S/C rolls about the S/C-Sun pointing axis during the extended science window. The vantage of the PSP location, combined with the different S/C roll orientations, allowed us to unveil a circumsolar dust density enhancement associated with Venus s orbit. Specifically, we observed an excess brightness band of about 1\% at its center over the brightness of the background zodiacal light in all PSP/WISPR images obtained during the extended campaign. We explain this brightness band as due to an increase in the density of the circumsolar dust orbiting the Sun close to the Venusian orbit. The projected latitudinal extent of the ring is estimated at about 0.043 au ± 0.004 au, exhibiting an average density enhancement of the order of 10\%. Here, we report and characterize the first comprehensive, pristine observations of the plane-of-sky projection of the dust ring in almost its full 360° longitudinal extension.
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The Astrophysical Journal
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