The International Cometary Explorer

  • J. C. Brandt
  • R. W. Farquhar
  • S. P. Maran
  • M. B. NiednerJr.
  • T. T. von Rosenvinge

Summary

The International Cometary Explorer (ICE) spacecraft passed through the plasma tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner (G/Z) on September 11, 1985 and made in situ measurements of particles, fields, and waves. The results establish comets and their interaction with the solar wind as a rich source of plasma physics phenomena. Time of closest approach to the comet was approximately 11:02 UT and occurred at a tailward distance of 7,800 km. The spacecraft was in the strong interaction region for roughly 3½ h, and spent about 10 min in the central tail region.

The scientific results for comet Giacobini-Zinner indicate:
  1. (1)

    that the magnetic field capture and draping model, originated by Alfvén is correct. Oppositely-polarized magnetic tail lobes, and a current sheet separating them, were observed

     
  2. (2)

    that the comet/solar-wind interaction produced energetic ions, probably by the “pick-up” process

     
  3. (3)

    the presence of intense plasma wave activity

     
  4. (4)

    that the central plasma tail is dense and cold

     
  5. (5)

    that the principal ions are in the H2O+ —H3O+ group

     
  6. (6)

    that the bow wave, as seen on the flanks, is not a conventional shock, but resembles an extended interaction region

     
  7. (7)

    that impacts of micron-sized dust particles were detected.

     
The ICE spacecraft survived the encounter with comet G/Z relatively unscathed and passed approximately 0.2 AU upstream of Halley’s Comet in late March 1986 with closest approach on the 25th. The scientific results for comet P/Halley indicate:
  1. (1)

    an apparent detection of the comet via plasma wave and energetic particle measurements over the nuclear distance range 28,000,000 to 35,000,000 km.

     
  2. (2)

    that the total interaction region for a Halley-sized comet can be quite large.

     

Key words

plasma tail plasma physics comet Giacobini-Zinner 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Brandt
    • 1
  • R. W. Farquhar
    • 2
  • S. P. Maran
    • 2
  • M. B. NiednerJr.
    • 2
  • T. T. von Rosenvinge
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.NASA/Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA

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