THE use of Mie theory (or other smooth particle results) to compute extinction or scattering by small particles in space, for which there is no direct evidence of surface characteristics, may be a risky procedure. Measurements of scattering properties of laboratory samples at optical wavelengths are difficult to interpret because the particles have either extended size distributions or a variety of shapes, or both1,2. Individual particles, with precisely defined optical properties and shapes can, however, be studied in microwave experiments and our results give a clear indication of the uncertainties in unqualified applications of Mie type theories. We have used a wide range of size to wavelength ratios and special particle orientation effects have been minimized by examining a variety of particle aspects. We have, however, not yet experimented with many different shapes and are not yet able to provide a satisfactory theoretical explanation of the results.
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