Detection of volatiles undergoing sublimation from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko coma particles using ROSINA/COPS

Pestoni, B.; Altwegg, K.; Balsiger, H.; Hänni, N.; Rubin, M.; Schroeder, I.; Schuhmann, M.; Wampfler, S. (2021). Detection of volatiles undergoing sublimation from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko coma particles using ROSINA/COPS. Astronomy and astrophysics, 651(A26), A26. EDP Sciences 10.1051/0004-6361/202140634

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Context. In an earlier study, we reported that the ram gauge of the COmet Pressure Sensor (COPS), one of the three instruments of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA), could be used to obtain information about the sublimating content of icy particles, made up of volatiles and conceivably refractories coming from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Aims. In this work, we extend the investigation to the second COPS gauge, the nude gauge. In particular, we analyse the volume of the volatile content of coma particles, along with a search for possible dependencies between the nude gauge detection rate (i.e. the rate at which icy particles are detected by the nude gauge) and the position of the Rosetta spacecraft. We also investigate the correlations of the nude gauge detection rate with the quantities associated with cometary activity.

Methods. We inspected the density measurements made by the nude gauge for features attributable to the presence of icy particles inside the instrument. These data were then analysed statistically based on the amplitude of the feature and on the position of the spacecraft at the time of detection.

Results. Although it was not originally designed for such a purpose, the COPS nude gauge has been able to detect ~67 000 features generated by the sublimation of the volatile content of icy particles. The nude gauge detection rate follows a trend that is inversely proportional to the heliocentric distance. This result is interpreted as a confirmation of a possible relation between the nude gauge detection rate and cometary activity. Thus, we compared the former with parameters related to cometary activity and obtained significant correlations, indicating that the frequency of icy particle detection is driven by cometary activity. Furthermore, by representing the volatile part of the icy particles as equivalent spheres with a density of 1 g cm−3, we obtained a range of diameters between 60 and 793 nm, with the smaller ones (<390 nm in diameter) having a size distribution power index of −4.79 ± 0.26.

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:

Pestoni, Boris Renato; Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, Hans; Hänni, Nora Phillys; Rubin, Martin; Schroeder I, Isaac Raedwald Hans Garfield; Schuhmann, Markus and Wampfler, Susanne


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




EDP Sciences




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

08 Sep 2021 08:13

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2021 03:17

Publisher DOI:





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