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Polarimetry of small bodies of the Solar System

Stinson, A; (2016) Polarimetry of small bodies of the Solar System. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis I exploit polarimetric techniques for the study of small objects of the Solar System. In particular I focus my attention on very faint objects that could not be observed before the advent of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and its FORS instrument. I have contributed to the observations, reduction and data interpretation for two transneptunian objects (TNOs), six faint Trojans asteroids, three active comets (including the target of the ROSETTA mission 67P) and two cometary nuclei. The scope of the various analyse differed slightly from each other. My studies of active comets have focussed on coma structure, colour and polarimetric maps, enabling a detailed characterisation of the dust of comets at large heliocentric distances that tentively suggest a difference in dust properties at large heliocentric distances. The six trojans, two TNOs and two cometary nuclei appear only as point sources so I have performed only aperture polarimetry. The analysis of the polarimetric curves (i.e., the broadband polarisation as a function of phase angle) confirms the different types of polarisation phase behaviour of the large and smaller sized TNOs, comet nuclei have very similar polarisation properties to those of Ftype asteroids and that the polarisation albedo relationship for asteroids does not hold for cometary nuclei. The polarimetric phase curve of the Trojan asteroids show a similar behaviour to P-Type asteroids and perhaps hint at diversity within the Trojan population. As a by-product of this scientific analysis, I have contributed to a better characterisation of the instruments employed for the observations, and refined the data reduction techniques. A full understanding of some of the technical aspects were of crucial importance for the project. The polarisation of these faint bodies is very small; because of this, slightly different data reduction methods may lead to substantially different results.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Polarimetry of small bodies of the Solar System
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1503981
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