The root of a comet tail: Rosetta ion observations at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden
2 Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, 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, Dorking, UK
5 LPC2E, CNRS, Orléans, 45071, France
6 IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, LAL, Université de Lille, 75014 Paris, France
7 LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, 75014 Paris, France
Accepted: 19 April 2018
Context. The first 1000 km of the ion tail of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko were explored by the European Rosetta spacecraft, 2.7 au away from the Sun.
Aims. We characterised the dynamics of both the solar wind and the cometary ions on the night-side of the comet’s atmosphere.
Methods. We analysed in situ ion and magnetic field measurements and compared the data to a semi-analytical model.
Results. The cometary ions are observed flowing close to radially away from the nucleus during the entire excursion. The solar wind is deflected by its interaction with the new-born cometary ions. Two concentric regions appear, an inner region dominated by the expanding cometary ions and an outer region dominated by the solar wind particles.
Conclusions. The single night-side excursion operated by Rosetta revealed that the near radial flow of the cometary ions can be explained by the combined action of three different electric field components, resulting from the ion motion, the electron pressure gradients, and the magnetic field draping. The observed solar wind deflection is governed mostly by the motional electric field −uion × B.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: 67P / 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.