Electrostatic influence on ISP trajectories
Though the magnitude of that particular effect would seem to be of minimal relevance to Stardust, I also remember mention that the particular conformation of the solar electromagnetic field during flight time could well have significantly altered the mass-distribution and trajectories of in-coming IS particles, yet have heard no more about this matter.
But also, and forgive me if this has been considered and discussed before, what effect might an electrostatic charge on the Stardust spacecraft itself (such as may have built up due to friction whilst passing through the cometary particle stream or whatever, and with nowhere to discharge) also have had on the trajectory of IS particles?
Same-charged particles would tend to be deflected around and away from the spacecraft, perhaps missing the collector altogether, even if on an initial head-on trajectory.
But oppositely-charged particles would tend to be attracted inward toward the spacecraft, such trajectories thus tending to be toward the bottom half of the collector, or if missing it, being physically deflected by the spacecraft surfaces, resulting in the so-far observed midnight/two-o’clock tracks.
By the way, was the collector electrically isolated from the main body of the craft?
If so, might it have become differentially polarised? Aluminium is quite a reasonable electrical conductor, after all.
I’ve suggested before on the forum (for slightly different reasons) that the tile examination program should take such possible non-uniform distribution of impacts into account, and that instead of progressing excruciatingly slowly from top to bottom, there should be equal attention paid to all quadrants. In fact I’d like the next tiles to come from the bottom row, and continue in an overall patchwork.
The team will no doubt put me right that I’m talking nonsense, but as a matter of interest, what data are there on actual/theoretical IS particle electrostatic charge, and for the spacecraft/collector itself, if any?