A new method for studying ions around comets in space

Bergman Sofia from the Swedish Institute for Space Physics (IRF) and Umeå University presented his doctoral thesis on low energy ions. This thesis is based on comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Also known as Tchouri and sometimes abbreviated as 67P / TG ​​or 67P / TG, it is a periodic comet of the solar system. These ions are known to be difficult to observe. However, the new protocol makes it possible to facilitate the process.

Through Sofia’s work, scientists should therefore be able to analyze these ions at several places in the solar system as well as around comets. The importance of this new approach lies in the fact that it should make it possible to better understand the physical dynamics taking place around comets.

However, the priority for now is to fully understand these low energy ions.

Unexpected results

The researchers relied on the information collected by the ionic mass spectrometer of the IRF ICA (Ion Composition Analyzer). Note that the ICA is capable of count the direction and energy of the circuit of said ions. However, the information provided by the instrument was quite complex to interpret due to certain parameters.

“A spacecraft interacts with its environment, which results in a buildup of charge on the surface of the spacecraft. This is problematic for low energy ion measurements, as the ions are affected by the spacecraft before being detected, changing both their energy and direction of travel. We want to know the original properties of the ions, before they are affected by the spacecraft, which is now possible with the method I developed in my thesis. “


Thanks to the study carried out by Sofia, it was possible to define the emission trajectories of the low-energy ions examined. Contrary to forecasts, a large number of these ions flowed to join the nucleus rather than the outside of the comet.

A deeper goal?

It is important to know the mode of operation of low energy ions to arrive at unearth the mysteries around comets. Then, understanding the way comets move could help better interpret the interactions between the solar wind and the different bodies of the solar system.

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