Molecular nitrogen in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko indicates a low formation temperature

Rubin, Martin; Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, Hans; Bar-Nun, A.; Berthelier, J.- J.; Bieler, André; Bochsler, Peter; Briois, C.; Calmonte, Ursina Maria; Combi, M.; De Keyser, J.; Dhooghe, F.; Eberhardt, Peter; Fiethe, B.; Fuselier, S. A.; Gasc, Sébastien; Gombosi, T. I.; Hansen, K. C.; Hässig, Myrtha; Jäckel, Annette; ... (2015). Molecular nitrogen in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko indicates a low formation temperature. Science, 348(6231), pp. 232-235. American Association for the Advancement of Science 10.1126/science.aaa6100

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Molecular nitrogen (N2) is thought to have been the most abundant form of nitrogen in the protosolar nebula. It is the main N-bearing molecule in the atmospheres of Pluto and Triton and probably the main nitrogen reservoir from which the giant planets formed. Yet in comets, often considered the most primitive bodies in the solar system, N2 has not been detected. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of N2 in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, made by the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis mass spectrometer aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. A N2/CO ratio of Embedded Image (2σ standard deviation of the sampled mean) corresponds to depletion by a factor of ~25.4 ± 8.9 as compared to the protosolar value. This depletion suggests that cometary grains formed at low-temperature conditions below ~30 kelvin.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Rubin, Martin, Altwegg, Kathrin, Balsiger, Hans, Bieler, André, Bochsler, Peter, Calmonte, Ursina Maria, Eberhardt, Peter, Gasc, Sébastien, Hässig, Myrtha, Jäckel, Annette, Kopp, Ernest, Le Roy, Léna, Sémon, Thierry, Tzou, Chia-Yu, Wurz, Peter


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




American Association for the Advancement of Science




Martin Rubin

Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2016 14:35

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:





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