A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud by Brian May

By Brian May

The Zodiacal gentle, that misty diffuse cone of sunshine visible within the West after sundown and the East sooner than dawn, is a gorgeous and fascinating phenomenon. although each person can benefit from the sight from a certainly darkish situation, it's poorly understood, and has been the topic of really little examine. Brian may perhaps begun his study into the topic in 1970, and was once ultimately presented his PhD in 2007, after a hiatus of greater than 30 years pursuing his different profession as guitarist together with his rock band Queen. This ebook is Brian’s thesis, and as such offers the result of his study for astronomers.

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2 ISO (Infrared Space Observatory) data In spite of its faintness in optical wavelengths, the Zodiacal Light is the dominant source of the medium-infrared sky brightness as seen from the Earth. 5 microns; at wavelengths shorter than this, the major part of the energy is scattered sunlight (with Doppler-absorption lines) – and at longer wavelengths the spectrum is dominated by thermal emission of dust grains. One of the most interesting parts of the whole spectrum is in the mid infrared (between 5 and 16 microns wavelength range), where the surface brightness increases by two orders of magnitude.

In 1972 and 1974, we, Hicks, May and Reay of Imperial College Infrared Astronomy Department, under the supervision of Prof. James Ring, published, in two papers, the results from the research which forms the basis of this thesis. The first paper in Nature (Hicks, May, Reay 1972) reported the MgI emission which had unexpectedly turned up in the new spectra. The second paper in MNRAS (Hicks, May, Reay 1974) reported the evidence, found in our Zodiacal Light spectra, of radial velocity shifts in the MgI absorption line, the first comprehensive mapping of such shifts ever achieved.

This introduced Doppler techniques to the study of the Zodiacal Light, and it was Ingham who laid the foundations for use of the Doppler method for investigations of the motions of interplanetary dust. 16 Chapter One The profile of an absorption feature in the ZL spectrum in a particular area of sky corresponds to a unique line of sight through the Zodiacal Cloud, and is a combination of the effects of all the lightscattering dust particles along this line. We can regard the spectrum as the summation of contributions from all the elements, or ‘cells’ in the line of sight; each has a radial velocity relative to the Earth which is a combination of its own motion and that of the Earth, and leaves its ‘signature’ on the resulting combined spectrum.

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