The European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft (Schulz, R., Alexander, C., Boehnhardt, H., Glassmeier, K.H. (Eds.) . "ROSETTA - ESA") will encounter Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 and spend the next 18 months in the vicinity of the comet, permitting very high spatial and spectral resolution observations of the coma and nucleus. During this time, the heliocentric distance of the comet will change from similar to 3.5 AU to similar to 1.3 AU, accompanied by an increasing temperature of the nucleus and the development of the coma. The Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) will observe the ground-state rotational transition (1(10)-1(01)) of H(2) (16)O at 556.936 GHz, the two isotopologues H(2)(17)O and H(2) (18)O and other molecular transitions in the coma during this time (Gulkis, S. et al., . MIRO: Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter. Space Sci. Rev, 128, 561-597).
The aim of this study is to simulate the water line spectra that could be obtained with the MIRO instrument and to understand how the observed line spectra with various viewing geometries can be used to study the physical conditions of the coma and the water excitation processes throughout the coma. We applied an accelerated Monte Carlo method to compute the excitations of the seven lowest rotational levels (1(01), 1(10), 2(12), 2(21), 3(03), 3(12), and 3(21)) of ortho-water using a comet model with spherically symmetric water outgassing, density, temperature and expansion velocity at three different heliocentric distances 1.3 AU, 2.5 AU, and 3.5 AU. Mechanisms for the water excitation include water-water collisions, water-electron collisions, and infrared pumping by solar radiation.
Synthetic line spectra are calculated at various observational locations and directions using the MIRO instrument parameters. We show that observations at varying viewing distances from the nucleus and directions have the potential to give diagnostic information on the continuum temperature and water outgassing rates at the surface of the nucleus, and the gas density, expansion velocity, and temperature of the coma as a function of distance from the nucleus. The gas expansion velocity and temperature affect the spectral line width and frequency shift of the line from the rest frequency, while the gas density (which is directly related to the outgassing rate) and the line excitation temperature determine the antenna temperature of the absorption and emission signal in the line profile.
2011. Vol. 215, no 2, 721-731 p.