The capabilities of ROSINA/DFMS to measure argon isotopes at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Hässig, Myrtha; Altwegg, Kathrin; Berthelier, J.J.; Calmonte, Ursina Maria; De Keyser, J.; Fiethe, B.; Fuselier, S.A.; Gombosi, T.I.; Le Roy, Léna; Owen, T.; Rubin, Martin (2015). The capabilities of ROSINA/DFMS to measure argon isotopes at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Planetary and space science, 105, pp. 175-178. Elsevier 10.1016/j.pss.2014.11.015

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Little is known about the noble gas abundances in comets. These highly volatile atoms are possible tracers of the history of cometary matter including the thermal evolution. They can help quantify the contribution of cometary impacts to terrestrial oceans and help elucidate on the formation history of comets and their role in the formation and evolution of planetary atmospheres. This paper focuses on argon and the capabilities to measure this noble gas with in situ mass spectrometry at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the target of the European Space Agency׳s spacecraft Rosetta.

Argon may have been detected by remote sensing in a single Oort cloud comet but to date nothing is known about the isotopic abundances of argon in comets. Furthermore, no detection of argon in a Jupiter-family comet has been reported. Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko belongs to the group of Jupiter-family comets and originates most likely in the Kuiper belt.

Onboard Rosetta is ROSINA/DFMS (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis/Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer). DFMS has unprecedented mass resolution and high sensitivity and is designed to measure isotopic ratios including argon (Balsiger et al., 2007). Argon measurements using the DFMS lab model (identical to the flight model) demonstrate this capability. At very least, this mass spectrometer has the resolution and sensitivity to reduce the upper limit on the argon outgassing rate relative to water by more than three orders of magnitude (for 38Ar). Most likely, ROSINA/DFMS will provide the first detection of argon in a Jupiter-family comet together with the first determination of the ³⁶Ar/³⁸Ar ratio at a comet.

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:

Hässig, Myrtha, Altwegg, Kathrin, Calmonte, Ursina Maria, Le Roy, Léna, Rubin, Martin


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








Martin Rubin

Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2016 16:07

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:





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