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S2D2 : Solar System Debris Disk

October 2, 2013; Ralf Srama

Understanding the conditions for planet formation is the primary theme of ESA's Cosmic Vision plan. Small bodies fill the whole solar system from the surface of the sun, to the fringes of the solar system, and to the neighboring stellar system. Associated with the small bodies is a Debris Disk of dust and meteoroids that are constantly generated from the disintegration of their parent bodies due to a wide range of processes. To develop our understanding of exoplanetary systems, we thus need to study our own system. This requires two complementary missions:

  • S2: for the first time, we will have a 'bird's eye view' of our inner debris disk in the infrared to examine the extent and fine structure of the 'warm' zodical cloud, and finally we may observe the 'cold' outer Trans-Neptunian disk.
  • D2: an in-situ observations and sample return mission to probe the orbital and compositional connection between the dust in the inner interplanetary debris disk and its source bodies, mapping the sky in dust. This mission will provide a direct comparison of the composition of interstellar raw material with the more processed material from comets and asteroids.

The science goals of such a mission scenario are:

  • Determine the extent and fine structure of the solar system debris disk.
  • Establish the dynamical and compositional relationships between micrometeoroids and their parent bodies.
  • Characterize similarities and differences of micron to mm-sized meteoroids flux.
  • Determine compositional differences between interstellar, comet, and asteroid dust.
  • Link samples returned and analyzed to meteor streams and parent objects.