Chemical and Isotopic Composition Measurements on Atmospheric Probes Exploring Uranus and Neptune

Vorburger, Audrey; Wurz, Peter; Waite, Hunter (2020). Chemical and Isotopic Composition Measurements on Atmospheric Probes Exploring Uranus and Neptune. Space science reviews, 216(4) Springer Nature 10.1007/s11214-020-00684-9

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So far no designated mission to either of the two ice giants, Uranus and Neptune,exists. Almost all of our gathered information on these planets comes from remote sensing.In recent years, NASA and ESA have started planning for future mission to Uranus andNeptune, with both agencies focusing their attention on orbiters and atmospheric probes.Whereas information provided by remote sensing is undoubtedly highly valuable, remotesensing of planetary atmospheres also presents some shortcomings, most of which can beovercome by mass spectrometers. In most studies presented to date a mass spectrometerexperiment is thus a favored science instrument forin situcomposition measurements onan atmospheric probe. Mass spectrometric measurements can provide unique scientific data,i.e., sensitive and quantitative measurements of the chemical composition of the atmosphere,including isotopic, elemental, and molecular abundances. In this review paper we presentthe technical aspects of mass spectrometry relevant to atmospheric probes. This includesthe individual components that make up mass spectrometers and possible implementationchoices for each of these components. We then give an overview of mass spectrometersthat were sent to space with the intent of probing planetary atmospheres, and discuss threeinstruments, the heritage of which is especially relevant to Uranus and Neptune probes,in detail. The main part of this paper presents the current state-of-art in mass spectrometryintended for atmospheric probe. Finally, we present a possible descent probe implementationin detail, including measurement phases and associated expected accuracies for selectedspecies.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Vorburger, Audrey Helena and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Springer Nature




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 15:14

Last Modified:

14 May 2021 02:30

Publisher DOI:





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