The Effects of Compositional Inhomogeneities and Fractal Dimension on the Optical Properties of Astrophysical Dust
Mathis and Whiffen (1989) have recently suggested that interstellar dust particles are fluffy aggregates of submicron-size particles composed of various astronomical minerals. These dust particles should exhibit optical properties that are quite different from standard dust, characterized by spherical particles of various homogeneous mineral composition. In this paper, the discrete dipole approximation (DDA) method is used to examine the effects of chemical inhomogeneities and spatial structure on the optical properties of interstellar Mathis-Whiffen-type dust particles. The spatial structure of the dust is represented by its fractal dimension, and the chemical inhomogeneities are simulated by randomly assigning the composition of the occupied sites in the structure to be either carbon or silicate. It is found that compositional inhomogeneities are the dominant parameter affecting the shape of the 9.7 and 18 micron silicate bands. Some bands-shape variations can be attributed to the fractal dimension of the dust. The results derived here can be used to explain or constrain variations in these parameters among various astronomical objects.