Volume 640, August 2020
|Number of page(s)||20|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||21 August 2020|
Observations of a mix of cold and warm electrons by RPC-MIP at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l’Environnement et de l’Espace (LPC2E), CNRS, Université d’Orléans, Orléans,
2 Laboratoire Lagrange, OCA, UCA, CNRS, Nice, France
3 Université de Toulouse, LAPLACE-UMR 5213, 31062 Toulouse, France
4 Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Box 537, 75121 Uppsala, Sweden
5 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Box 516, 75210 Uppsala, Sweden
6 Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Sidelerstrasse 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Accepted: 17 June 2020
Context. The Mutual Impedance Probe (MIP) of the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) onboard the Rosetta orbiter which was in operation for more than two years, between August 2014 and September 2016 to monitor the electron density in the cometary ionosphere of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Based on the resonance principle of the plasma eigenmodes, recent models of the mutual impedance experiment have shown that in a two-electron temperature plasma, such an instrument is able to separate the two isotropic electron populations and retrieve their properties.
Aims. The goal of this paper is to identify and characterize regions of the cometary ionized environment filled with a mix of cold and warm electron populations, which was observed by Rosetta during the cometary operation phase.
Methods. To reach this goal, this study identifies and investigates the in situ mutual impedance spectra dataset of the RPC-MIP instrument that contains the characteristics of a mix of cold and warm electrons, with a special focus on instrumental signatures typical of large cold-to-total electron density ratio (from 60 to 90%), that is, regions strongly dominated by the cold electron component.
Results. We show from the observational signatures that the mix of cold and warm cometary electrons strongly depends on the cometary latitude. Indeed, in the southern hemisphere of 67P, where the neutral outgassing activity was higher than in northern hemisphere during post-perihelion, the cold electrons were more abundant, confirming the role of electron-neutral collisions in the cooling of cometary electrons. We also show that the cold electrons are mainly observed outside the nominal electron-neutral collision-dominated region (exobase), where electrons are expected to have cooled down. This which indicates that the cold electrons have been transported outward. Finally, RPC-MIP detected cold electrons far from the perihelion, where the neutral outgassing activity is lower, in regions where no electron exobase was expected to have formed. This suggests that the cometary neutrals provide a more frequent or efficient cooling of the electrons than expected for a radially expanding ionosphere.
Key words: comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko / instrumentation: detectors / elementary particles / methods: observational
© N. Gilet et al. 2020
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.
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