Ion Composition Results During the International Cometary Explorer Encounter with Giacobini-Zinner

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  18 Apr 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4748, pp. 374-377
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4748.374


The International Cometary Explorer spacecraft passed through the coma of comet Giacobini-Zinner about 7800 kilometers antisunward of the nucleus on 11 September 1985. The ion composition instrument was sensitive to ambient ions with mass-to-charge ratios in the ranges 1.4 to 3 atomic mass units per electron charge (amu e-1) and 14 to 33 amu e-1. Initial interpretation of the measurements indicates the presence of H2O+, H3O+, probably CO+ and HCO+, and ions in the mass range 23 to 24; possible candidates are Na+ and Mg+. In addition to these heavy ions, measured over the velocity range 80 to 223 kilometers per second, the instrument measured He2+ of solar wind origin over the range 237 to 463 kilometers per second. The heavy ions have a velocity distribution which indicates that they have been picked up by the motional electric field, whereas the light ions are steadily decelerated as the comet tail axis is approached. These results are in agreement with the picture of a comet primarily consisting of water ice, together with other material, that sublimes, streams away from the nucleus, becomes ionized, and interacts with the solar wind. K. W. Ogilvie, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 692, Greenbelt, MD 20771.

Related Content