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Evolution of the ion environment of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Swedish Inst Space Phys, S-98128 Kiruna, Sweden.;Lulea Univ Technol, Dept Comp Sci Elect & Space Engn, S-98128 Kiruna, Sweden..
Swedish Inst Space Phys, S-98128 Kiruna, Sweden..
Swedish Inst Space Phys, S-98128 Kiruna, Sweden.;Lulea Univ Technol, Dept Comp Sci Elect & Space Engn, S-98128 Kiruna, Sweden..
Aalto Univ, Sch Elect Engn, Dept Radio Sci & Engn, Aalto 00076, Finland..
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2015 (English)In: Astronomy and Astrophysics, ISSN 0004-6361, E-ISSN 1432-0746, Vol. 583, A20Article in journal (Refereed) Published
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Abstract [en]

Context. The Rosetta spacecraft is escorting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a heliocentric distance of >3.6 AU, where the comet activity was low, until perihelion at 1.24 AU. Initially, the solar wind permeates the thin comet atmosphere formed from sublimation. Aims. Using the Rosetta Plasma Consortium Ion Composition Analyzer (RPC-ICA), we study the gradual evolution of the comet ion environment, from the first detectable traces of water ions to the stage where cometary water ions accelerated to about 1 keV energy are abundant. We compare ion fluxes of solar wind and cometary origin. Methods. RPC-ICA is an ion mass spectrometer measuring ions of solar wind and cometary origins in the 10 eV-40 keV energy range. Results. We show how the flux of accelerated water ions with energies above 120 eV increases between 3.6 and 2.0 AU. The 24 h average increases by 4 orders of magnitude, mainly because high-flux periods become more common. The water ion energy spectra also become broader with time. This may indicate a larger and more uniform source region. At 2.0 AU the accelerated water ion flux is frequently of the same order as the solar wind proton flux. Water ions of 120 eV-few keV energy may thus constitute a significant part of the ions sputtering the nucleus surface. The ion density and mass in the comet vicinity is dominated by ions of cometary origin. The solar wind is deflected and the energy spectra broadened compared to an undisturbed solar wind. Conclusions. The flux of accelerated water ions moving from the upstream direction back toward the nucleus is a strongly nonlinear function of the heliocentric distance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 583, A20
Keyword [en]
plasmas, acceleration of particles, comets: general, comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-270612DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201526142ISI: 000365072200059OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-270612DiVA: diva2:890247
Funder
Swedish National Space Board, 108/12Swedish National Space Board, 112/13
Available from: 2016-01-01 Created: 2016-01-01 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved

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Edberg, Niklas J. T.Eriksson, Anders. I.

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