Ion composition and dynamics at comet Halley

H. Balsiger, K. Altwegg, F. Bühler, J. Geiss, A. G. Ghielmetti, B. E. Goldstein, R. Goldstein, W. T. Huntress, W. H. Ip, A. J. Lazarus, A. Meier, M. Neugebauer, U. Rettenmund, H. Rosenbauer, R. Schwenn, R. D. Sharp, E. G. Shelley, E. Ungstrup, D. T. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Scopus citations


The ion mass spectrometer aboard the Giotto spacecraft measured the composition and velocity distributions of cometary ions at distances of ∼7.5×l06 to ∼1,300 km from the nucleus of comet Halley. Well outside the bow shock, pick-up cometary H+ ions were found in a diffuse shell-like distribution. Heavier ions (C+, H 2O+-group, CO+ and S+) with similar distributions have been identified at ≤3×l05 km. Solar-wind He2+ was found throughout the coma to as close as ∼5,000 km; He+ produced by charge exchange was seen inside ∼2×10 5 km. Deeper within the coma the main cometary hot-ion species identified were H+, H2+, C+, O +, OH+, H2O+, H3O +, CO+ and S+. A pile-up of heavy cometary ions was found at ∼104 km from the nucleus. Giotto crossed the contact surface at ∼4,600 km, based on changes in ion flow velocity and temperature. Inside, ion temperatures as low as ∼340 K and outflow velocities of ∼1 km s-1 were found. Outside the contact surface ion densities vary as r-2, with a transition to an r-l dependence approximately at the contact surface. A large C+ abundance throughout the coma indicates an unexpected direct source of atomic carbon. The nitrogen abundance, on the other hand, is relatively low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-334
Number of pages5
Issue number6067
StatePublished - 1986


Dive into the research topics of 'Ion composition and dynamics at comet Halley'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this