Volume 653, September 2021
|Number of page(s)
|Catalogs and data
|23 September 2021
Plasma densities, flow, and solar EUV flux at comet 67P
A cross-calibration approach
Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala, Sweden
2 Uppsala University, Department of Astronomy and Space Physics, Uppsala, Sweden
3 Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l’Environnement et de l’Espace, CNRS, Orléans, France
4 Laboratoire Lagrange, OCA, CNRS, UCA, Nice, France
5 Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden
6 Umeå University, Department of Physics, Umeå, Sweden
Accepted: 28 June 2021
Context. During its two-year mission at comet 67P, Rosetta nearly continuously monitored the inner coma plasma environment for gas production rates varying over three orders of magnitude, at distances to the nucleus ranging from a few to a few hundred kilometres. To achieve the best possible measurements, cross-calibration of the plasma instruments is needed.
Aims. Our goal is to provide a consistent plasma density dataset for the full mission, while in the process providing a statistical characterisation of the plasma in the inner coma and its evolution.
Methods. We constructed physical models for two different methods to cross-calibrate the spacecraft potential and the ion current as measured by the Rosetta Langmuir probes (LAP) to the electron density as measured by the Mutual Impedance Probe (MIP). We also described the methods used to estimate spacecraft potential, and validated the results with the Ion Composition Analyser (ICA).
Results. We retrieve a continuous plasma density dataset for the entire cometary mission with a much improved dynamical range compared to any plasma instrument alone and, at times, improve the temporal resolution from 0.24−0.74 Hz to 57.8 Hz. The physical model also yields, at a three-hour time resolution, ion flow speeds and a proxy for the solar EUV flux from the photoemission from the Langmuir probes.
Conclusions. We report on two independent mission-wide estimates of the ion flow speed that are consistent with the bulk H2O+ ion velocities as measured by the ICA. We find the ion flow to consistently be much faster than the neutral gas over the entire mission, lending further evidence that the ions are collisionally decoupled from the neutrals in the coma. Measurements of ion speeds from Rosetta are therefore not consistent with the assumptions made in previously published plasma density models of the comet 67P’s ionosphere at the start and end of the mission. Also, the measured EUV flux is perfectly consistent with independently derived values previously published from LAP and lends support for the conclusions drawn regarding an attenuation of solar EUV from a distant nanograin dust population, when the comet activity was high. The new density dataset is consistent with the existing MIP density dataset, but it facilitates plasma analysis on much shorter timescales, and it also covers long time periods where densities were too low to be measured by MIP.
Key words: plasmas / comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko / space vehicles: instruments / methods: data analysis / methods: statistical
© ESO 2021
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