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Parker Solar Probe Observations of a Dust Trail in the Orbit of (3200) Phaethon

AuthorBattams, Karl; Knight, Matthew; Kelley, Michael; Gallagher, Brendan; Howard, Russell; Stenborg, Guillermo;
KeywordsAstrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics; Parker Data Used; parker solar probe; Solar Probe Plus

We present the identification and preliminary analysis of a dust trail following the orbit of (3200) Phaethon as seen in white-light images recorded by the Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument on the NASA Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission. During PSP\textquoterights first solar encounter in 2018 November, a dust trail following Phaethon\textquoterights orbit was visible for several days and crossing two fields of view. Preliminary analyses indicate this trail to have a visual magnitude of 15.8 \textpm 0.3 per pixel and a surface brightness of 25.0 mag arcsec-2 as seen by PSP/WISPR from a distance of ̃0.2 au from the trail. We estimate the total mass of the stream to be ̃(0.4-1.3) \texttimes 1012 kg, which is consistent with, though slightly underestimates, the assumed mass of the Geminid stream, but is far larger than the current dust production that Phaethon could support. Our results imply that we are observing a natural clustering of at least some portion of the Geminid meteor stream through its perihelion, as opposed to dust produced more recently from perihelion activity of Phaethon.

Year of Publication2020
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series
Number of Pages64
Date Published02/2020