Constraining the Solar System's Debris Disk with In Situ New Horizons Measurements from the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt
The solar system currently possesses two remnant debris disks leftover from the planetary formation era in the form of the asteroid belt and the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt (EKB). Similar to other stellar systems, these debris disks continually generate submillimeter-sized dust grains through processes such as mutual collisions, interstellar dust grain bombardment, and sublimation/sputtering of larger grains. Here, we use recent in situ measurements by the New Horizons Student Dust Counter and an interplanetary dust dynamics model to constrain the overall structure and magnitude of the solar system’s debris disk, including the disk mass, optical depth, and surface brightness in both scattered light and thermal emission. We find that ∼99% of the solar system’s dust disk mass (grains with diameter <1 mm) is contained within EKB and Oort Cloud cometary grains outside of 30 au, with the remaining ∼1% mass in the form of Jupiter-family cometary dust within 5 au. The total disk mass is estimated to be ∼8 × 10-7 M ⊕ with a total fractional luminosity of ∼5 × 10-7, confirming our solar system as a relatively dust-poor system compared to debris disks around similar-aged FGK stars. Finally, we estimate that Kuiper Belt Object collisional events such as that which created the Haumea family could transiently increase the current surface brightness of our debris disk by a factor of only ∼6, far less than median brightnesses seen in other nearby disks. This further supports the idea that the EKB has been largely depleted of its primordial mass relative to other stellar systems by instabilities triggered by planetary migration.