Cometary ion dynamics observed in the close vicinity of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko during the intermediate activity period
Luleå University of Technology,
2 Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Rymdcampus 1, 981 92 Kiruna, Sweden
3 Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics, Mendelssohnstraße 3, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
4 Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, Surrey, UK
Accepted: 21 January 2018
Aims. Cometary ions are constantly produced in the coma, and once produced they are accelerated and eventually escape the coma. We describe and interpret the dynamics of the cometary ion flow, of an intermediate active comet, very close to the nucleus and in the terminator plane.
Methods. We analysed in situ ion and magnetic field measurements, and characterise the velocity distribution functions (mostly using plasma moments). We propose a statistical approach over a period of one month.
Results. On average, two populations were observed, separated in phase space. The motion of the first is governed by its interaction with the solar wind farther upstream, while the second one is accelerated in the inner coma and displays characteristics compatible with an ambipolar electric field. Both populations display a consistent anti-sunward velocity component.
Conclusions. Cometary ions born in different regions of the coma are seen close to the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko with distinct motions governed in one case by the solar wind electric field and in the other case by the position relative to the nucleus. A consistent anti-sunward component is observed for all cometary ions. An asymmetry is found in the average cometary ion density in a solar wind electric field reference frame, with higher density in the negative (south) electric field hemisphere. There is no corresponding signature in the average magnetic field strength.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko / plasmas / methods: observational / space vehicles: instruments
© ESO 2018
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.