Forces on dust grains exposed to anisotropic interstellar radiation fields

Joseph C. Weingartner, B. T. Draine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Grains exposed to anisotropic radiation fields are subjected to forces due to the asymmetric photon-stimulated ejection of particles. These forces act in addition to the "radiation pressure" due to absorption and scattering. Here we model the forces due to photoelectron emission and the photodesorption of adatoms. The "photoelectric" force depends on the ambient conditions relevant to grain charging. We find it is comparable to the radiation pressure when the grain potential is relatively low and the radiation spectrum is relatively hard. The calculation of the "photodesorption" force is highly uncertain since the surface physics and chemistry of grain materials are poorly understood at present. For our simple yet plausible model, the photodesorption force dominates the radiation pressure for grains larger than ∼0.1 μm exposed to starlight from OB stars. We find that the anisotropy of the interstellar radiation field is ∼10% in the visible and ultraviolet. We estimate size-dependent drift speeds for grains in the cold and warm neutral media and find that micron-sized grains could potentially be moved across a diffuse cloud during its lifetime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-594
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Atomic processes
  • Dust, extinction


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