Indian scientists develop model cosmic dust particles to mimic the unusual polarisation of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov

Source: The post is based on the article “Indian scientists develop model cosmic dust particles to mimic the unusual polarisation of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov” published in the PIB on 25th May 2023

What is the News?

To replicate the unusual polarisation properties of the first observed interstellar comet (not gravitationally bound to a star), 2I/Borisov, Indian scientists created a cosmic dust model.

What are the various types of comets in the solar system?

Solar System comets are categorised into two polarimetric classes. Such as low and high-polarisation comets depending on the different dust-to-gas ratios observed in the comet.

A third class of comets are also there which have polarisation higher than that of high polarisation comets. This was observed only in case of one Solar System comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp). Such a steep polarimetric slope is believed to occur due to the presence of small pristine cosmic dust.

About 2I/Borisov

2I/Borisov was the first interstellar comet to be observed and studied by mankind. It exhibited an unusually steeper slope which was observed only in case of one Solar System comet, C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp).

About the cosmic dust model developed

To explain the polarimetric observations of comets, it is important to develop realistic computer-modeled dust structures and computationally simulate the scattering of light by such modelled structures. Recently, Indian scientists for the first time developed a visually realistic cosmic dust model using a set of numerical algorithms/software called REST (Rough Ellipsoid Structure Tools).

The model results also indicate the observed dust-to-gas ratio is directly proportional to the porous-to-compact ratio of the modelled dust structures.

Applications: The model can reproduce experimental as well as observational data of light scattered by dust. By studying the way light scatters off these cosmic particles, scientists can better understand how comets behave.

What are Cosmic dust particles?

These are tiny solid particles that exist in outer space. They are composed of various materials, including minerals, metals, ice, and organic compounds. These dust particles are composed of amorphous silicate (Forsterite) and amorphous carbon.  Their size range from nanometers to micrometres.

They contribute to the formation of stars and planetary systems by providing material for accretion. They also scatter and absorb light, affecting the radiation properties of celestial objects. Additionally, these particles serve as building blocks for the formation of larger objects, such as asteroids, comets, and planets.

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