The Juno spacecraft solves a mystery about the zodiacal light

Lots of people probably witnessed a phenomenon known as zodiac light and didn’t realize what they were seeing. Zodiacal light occurs when people look at the night sky just before dawn or just after dusk and see a faint light extending from the horizon. Scientists believe that the light is caused by the reflection of sunlight towards the earth by a cloud of dust particles orbiting the sun.

It was believed that the dust was transported into the inner solar system by asteroids and comets that entered the inner solar system from long distances. Scientists working on the Juno mission now have them I found clues The current thinking about how to create the zodiac light is wrong. Using an instrument aboard the Juno spacecraft, scientists have discovered dust particles that collide with the spacecraft during its journey from Earth to Jupiter.

The Juno researchers had never set out to discover, nor anticipated, to search for interplanetary dust. Juno has several cameras on board that take pictures of the sky every quarter of a second to help steer the spacecraft by recognizing the star patterns in the images. Scientists also thought that the cameras might capture images of undiscovered asteroids. The cameras were programmed to report objects appearing in multiple consecutive images that were not in the catalog of known celestial objects.

Scientists were shocked when the spacecraft began sending thousands of images of unidentified objects as streaks appeared and disappeared. The photos were described as looking like someone was shaking a dusty mattress from the window. After calculating the apparent size, velocity of the objects and the images, they realized that they were seeing dust grains collide in Juno at 10,000 miles per hour and chop millimeters.

The material they saw in the photos was from the spacecraft’s solar panels. Every piece of tracked debris was the result of an interplanetary dust particle. Scientists note that the majority of dust impacts were recorded between Earth and the asteroid belt, with gaps in the distribution related to the influence of Jupiter’s gravity. The team believes that the dust ends up near the Earth because Earth’s gravity collects all the dust that approaches it, and it is this dust that is seen as the light of the zodiac.

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