Modeling porous dust grains with ballistic aggregates. I. geometry and optical properties

Yue Shen, B. T. Draine, Eric T. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the scattering and absorption of light by random ballistic aggregates of spherical monomers. We present general measures for the size, shape, and porosity of an irregular particle. Three different classes of ballistic aggregates are considered, with different degrees of porosity. Scattering and absorption cross sections are calculated, using the discrete dipole approximation (DDA), for grains of three compositions (50% silicate and 50% graphite; 50% silicate and 50% amorphous carbon; and 100% silicate, where percentages are by volume) for wavelengths from 0.1 to 4 μm. For a fixed amount of solid material, increased porosity increases the extinction at short wavelengths, but decreases the extinction at wavelengths that are long compared to the overall aggregate size. Scattering and absorption cross sections are insensitive to monomer size as long as the constituent monomers are small compared with the incident wavelength. We compare our accurate DDA results with two other approximations: the analytical multilayer sphere (MLS) model and effective medium theory (EMT). For high porosity and/or absorptive materials, the MLS model does not provide a good approximation for scattering and absorption by ballistic aggregates. The EMT method provides a much better approximation than the MLS model for these aggregates, with a typical difference {precedes or equivalent to}20% in extinction and scattering cross sections compared with DDA results, for all types, compositions, and wavelengths probed in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-275
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Circumstellar matter
  • Dust, extinction
  • Interplanetary medium
  • Scattering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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