Mass spectrometry of planetary exospheres at high relative velocity: direct comparison of open- and closed-source measurements
- 1Physics Institute, Space Research and Planetary Sciences, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
- * Invited contribution by Stefan Meyer, recipient of the EGU Outstanding Student Poster and PICO Award 2016.
Abstract. The exploration of habitable environments on or inside icy moons around the gas giants in the solar system is of major interest in upcoming planetary missions. Exactly this theme is addressed by the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission of ESA, which will characterise Ganymede, Europa and Callisto as planetary objects and potential habitats.
We developed a prototype of the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass spectrometer (NIM) of the Particle Environment Package (PEP) for the JUICE mission intended for composition measurements of neutral gas and thermal plasma. NIM/PEP will be used to measure the chemical composition of the exospheres of the icy Jovian moons. Besides direct ion measurement, the NIM instrument is able to measure the inflowing neutral gas in two different modes: in neutral mode, where the gas enters directly the ion source (open source), and in thermal mode, where the gas gets thermally accommodated to the wall temperature by several collisions inside an equilibrium sphere, called antechamber, before entering the ion source (closed source).
We performed measurements with the prototype NIM using a neutral gas beam of 1 up to 4.5 km s−1 velocity in the neutral and thermal mode. The current trajectory of JUICE foresees a flyby velocity of 4 km s−1 at Europa; other flybys are in the range of 1 up to 7 km s−1 and orbital velocity in Ganymede orbits is around 2 km s−1. Different species are used for the gas beam, such as noble gases Ne, Ar, Kr as well as molecules like H2, methane, ethane, propane and more complex ones.
The NIM prototype was successfully tested under realistic JUICE mission conditions. In addition, we find that the antechamber (closed source) behaves as expected with predictable density enhancement over the specified mass range and within the JUICE mission phase velocities. Furthermore, with the open source and the closed source we measure almost the same composition for noble gases, as well as for molecules, indicating no additional fragmentation of the species recorded with the antechamber for the investigated parameter range.