Elemental Analysis of the Surface of Comet 67p/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer APXS on the Rosetta Lander Philae: Preliminary Results

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Goestar Klingelhoefer1, Dirk Schmanke1, Jordi Girones-Lopez1, Johannes Brueckner2, Claude d'Uston3, Thanasis Economou4, Ralf Gellert5 and Cristina Markovski1, (1)Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany, (2)Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany, (3)CESR, Toulouse, France, (4)Univ Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States, (5)University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
After a 10 years cruise the Rosetta probe has reached its final target, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The main objectives of the mission are to gain more knowledge of the composition, the origin and formation of comets and the solar system.

After extensive remote exploration of the comet the lander Philae will be separated to land on the comet surface, starting immediately examining its landing site with its scientific payload. Part of this payload is the APXS (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer). It will measure in situ the chemical composition of the comet's surface and it's changes during the journey of the comet towards the sun. APXS is a combination of two spectrometers in one single instrument. It will irradiate the comet surface using Curium 244 sources, which are emitting alpha-particle and X-rays. In the alpha-mode the instrument uses alpha backscattering spectroscopy to detect lower Z elements like C, N and O and groups of elements with higher Z. In the X-ray mode alpha particle / X-ray induced X-ray spectroscopy (XRF) will allow the detection of most of the higher Z elements from Na up to Ni and above. Both modes will be always run in parallel allowing to determine lower and higher Z elements simultaneously.

For 3 years the solar powered Rosetta probe had to pass a hibernation phase because of a long passage far away to the sun. After wakeup in January 2014 an extensive test phase of all instruments and subsystems has been performed, including the APXS. After landing on the comet an intense initial measurement phase of all instruments is planned, the First Science Sequence (FSS). It will be followed by a long term science phase (LTS). As long as possible APXS and the other instruments will continue to measure and monitor the changes and increasing activity of the comet during its journey towards the inner region of the solar system.The project is funded by the German Space Agency DLR under contracts 50 QP 0404 and 50 QP 0902.

References: G. Klingelhöfer et al., The Rosetta Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), Space Science Reviews, Vol.128 (2007) 383-396;