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The Astrophysical Journal


The solar wind carves a bubble in the surrounding interstellar medium (ISM) known as the heliosphere. Charged interstellar dust grains (ISDG) encountering the heliosphere may be diverted around the heliopause or penetrate it depending on their charge-to-mass ratio. We present new calculations of trajectories of ISDG in the heliosphere, and the dust density distributions that result. We include up-to-date grain charging calculations using a realistic UV radiation field and full three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic fluid + kinetic models for the heliosphere. Models with two different (constant) polarities for the solar wind magnetic field (SWMF) are used, with the grain trajectory calculations done separately for each polarity. Small grains a gr 0.01 μm are completely excluded from the inner heliosphere. Large grains, a gr 1.0 μm, pass into the inner solar system and are concentrated near the Sun by its gravity. Trajectories of intermediate size grains depend strongly on the SWMF polarity. When the field has magnetic north pointing to ecliptic north, the field de-focuses the grains resulting in low densities in the inner heliosphere, while for the opposite polarity the dust is focused near the Sun. The ISDG density outside the heliosphere inferred from applying the model results to in situ dust measurements is inconsistent with local ISM depletion data for both SWMF polarities but is bracketed by them. This result points to the need to include the time variation in the SWMF polarity during grain propagation. Our results provide valuable insights for interpretation of the in situ dust observations from Ulysses.