Organics in comet 67P – a first comparative analysis of mass spectra from ROSINA–DFMS, COSAC and Ptolemy

Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, Hans; Berthelier, J.J.; Bieler, André; Calmonte, Ursina Maria; Fuselier, S.A.; Goesmann, F.; Gasc, Sébastien; Gombosi, T. I.; Le Roy, Léna; de Keyser, J.; Morse, A.; Rubin, Martin; Schuhmann, Markus; Taylor, M. G. G. T; Tzou, Chia-Yu; Wright, I. (2017). Organics in comet 67P – a first comparative analysis of mass spectra from ROSINA–DFMS, COSAC and Ptolemy. Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 469(Suppl_2), S130-S141. Oxford University Press 10.1093/mnras/stx1415

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The ESA Rosetta spacecraft followed comet 67P at a close distance for more than 2 yr.
In addition, it deployed the lander Philae on to the surface of the comet. The (surface)
composition of the comet is of great interest to understand the origin and evolution of comets. By combining measurements made on the comet itself and in the coma, we probe the nature of this surface material and compare it to remote sensing observations. We compare data from the double focusing mass spectrometer (DFMS) of the ROSINA experiment on ESA’s Rosetta mission and previously published data from the two mass spectrometers COSAC (COmetary Sampling And Composition) and Ptolemy on the lander. The mass spectra of all three instruments show very similar patterns of mainly CHO-bearing molecules that sublimate at temperatures of 275 K. The DFMS data also show a great variety of CH-, CHN-, CHS-, CHO₂- and CHNO-bearing saturated and unsaturated species. Methyl isocyanate, propanal and glycol aldehyde suggested by the earlier analysis of the measured COSAC spectrum could not be confirmed. The presence of polyoxymethylene in the Ptolemy spectrum was found to be unlikely. However, the signature of the aromatic compound toluene was identified in DFMS and Ptolemy data. Comparison with remote sensing instruments confirms the complex nature of the organics on the surface of 67P, which is much more diverse than anticipated.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Other Institutions > Emeriti, Faculty of Science
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Altwegg, Kathrin, Balsiger, Hans, Bieler, André, Calmonte, Ursina Maria, Gasc, Sébastien, Le Roy, Léna, Rubin, Martin, Schuhmann, Markus, Tzou, Chia-Yu


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering
500 Science > 530 Physics




Oxford University Press




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

13 Nov 2017 16:58

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:07

Publisher DOI:





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