Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Physics

Reader in Planetary Science



m.galand Website




Huxley BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Publication Type

124 results found

Beth A, Galand M, Heritier K, 2019, Comparative study of photo-produced ionosphere in the close environment of comets, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol: 630, ISSN: 0004-6361

Context. The Giotto and Rosetta missions gave us the unique opportunity of probing the close environment of cometary ionospheres of 1P/Halley (1P) and 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P). The plasma conditions encountered at these two comets were very different from each other, which mainly stem from the different heliocentric distances, which drive photoionization rates, and from the outgassing activities, which drive the neutral densities.Aims. We asses the relative contribution of different plasma processes that are ongoing in the inner coma: photoionization, transport, photoabsorption, and electron–ion dissociative recombination. The main goal is to identify which processes are at play to then quantitatively assess the ionospheric density.Methods. We provide a set of analytical formulas to describe the ionospheric number density profile for cometary environments that take into account some of these processes. We discuss the validity of each model in the context of the Rosetta and Giotto missions.Results. We show that transport is the dominant loss process at large cometocentric distances and low outgassing rates. Chemical plasma loss through e−-ion dissociative recombination matters around 67P near perihelion and at 1P during the Giotto flyby: its effects increase as the heliocentric distance decreases, that is, at higher outgassing activity and higher photoionization frequency. Photoabsorption is of importance for outgassing rates higher than 1028 s−1 and only close to the cometary nucleus, well below the location of both spacecraft. Finally, regardless of the processes we considered, the ion number density profile always follows a 1∕r law at large cometocentric distances.

Journal article

Carnielli G, Galand M, Leblanc F, Leclercq L, Modolo R, Beth A, Huybrighs HLF, Jia Xet al., 2019, First 3D test particle model of Ganymede's ionosphere, Icarus, Vol: 330, Pages: 42-59, ISSN: 0019-1035

We present the first three-dimensional multi-species ionospheric model for Ganymede, based on a test particle Monte Carlo approach. Inputs include the electromagnetic field configuration around the moon from the magnetospheric models developed by Leclercq et al. (2016) and by Jia et al. (2009), and the number density, bulk velocity and temperature distributions of the neutral exosphere simulated by Leblanc et al. (2017). According to our simulations, O2+ is the most abundant ion species, followed by O+, H2+ and H2O+. For O+ and O2+, the majority of ions produced impact the moon's surface, while for the other species the majority escapes Ganymede's magnetosphere. For all ion species, the escape occurs either in the direction of corotation of the Jovian plasma or through the Alfvén wings.To validate our model, the output of our simulations, performed under the Galileo G2 flyby conditions, are compared to the observations. These include the electron density derived by the plasma wave instrument (PWS), the ion energy spectrogram measured by the plasma analyzer (PLS) and the associated plasma moments (Frank et al., 1997a).On the one hand, the electron density found by our model is consistently underestimated throughout the flyby, being at least one order of magnitude lower compared to observations. We argue that the prime reason for this discrepancy comes from the exospheric density, which may be underestimated. On the other hand, we find a remarkably good agreement between the modeled ion energy spectrogram and that recorded by PLS, providing a validation of the test particle model. Finally, we compare the modeled plasma moments along the G2 flyby with those analyzed by Frank et al. (1997a). The data seems to be more consistent with an ionosphere dominated by O2+ instead of H+ or O+, as suggested previously in the literature. This supports our finding that O2+ is the dominant ion species close to the surface.

Journal article

Vigren E, Edberg NJT, Eriksson A, Galand M, Henri P, Johansson FL, Odelstad E, Rubin M, Vallieres Xet al., 2019, The Evolution of the Electron Number Density in the Coma of Comet 67P at the Location of Rosetta from 2015 November through 2016 March, The Astrophysical Journal: an international review of astronomy and astronomical physics, Vol: 881, ISSN: 0004-637X

A comet ionospheric model assuming the plasma moves radially outward with the same bulk speed as the neutral gas and not being subject to severe reduction through dissociative recombination has previously been tested in a series of case studies associated with the Rosetta mission at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It has been found that at low activity and within several tens of kilometers from the nucleus such models (which originally were developed for such conditions) generally work well in reproducing observed electron number densities, in particular when plasma production through both photoionization and electron-impact ionization is taken into account. Near perihelion, case studies have, on the contrary, shown that applying similar assumptions overestimates the observed electron number densities at the location of Rosetta. Here we compare Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis/Comet Pressure sensor-driven model results with Rosetta Plasma Consortium/Mutual Impedance Probe-derived electron number densities for an extended time period (2015 November through 2016 March) during the postperihelion phase with southern summer/spring. We observe a gradual transition from a state when the model grossly overestimates (by more than a factor of 10) the observations to being in reasonable agreement during 2016 March.

Journal article

Deca J, Henri P, Divin A, Eriksson A, Galand M, Beth A, Ostaszewski K, Horányi Met al., 2019, Building a weakly outgassing comet from a generalized Ohm’s law, Physical Review Letters, Vol: 123, Pages: 055101-1-055101-7, ISSN: 0031-9007

When a weakly outgassing comet is sufficiently close to the Sun, the formation of an ionized coma results in solar wind mass loading and magnetic field draping around its nucleus. Using a 3D fully kinetic approach, we distill the components of a generalized Ohm’s law and the effective electron equation of state directly from the self-consistently simulated electron dynamics and identify the driving physics in the various regions of the cometary plasma environment. Using the example of space plasmas, in particular multispecies cometary plasmas, we show how the description for the complex kinetic electron dynamics can be simplified through a simple effective closure, and identify where an isotropic single-electron fluid Ohm’s law approximation can be used, and where it fails.

Journal article

Götz C, Gunell H, Volwerk M, Beth A, Eriksson A, Galand M, Henri P, Nilsson H, Wedlund CS, Alho M, Andersson L, Andre N, Keyser JD, Deca J, Ge Y, Glaßmeier K-H, Hajra R, Karlsson T, Kasahara S, Kolmasova I, LLera K, Madanian H, Mann I, Mazelle C, Odelstad E, Plaschke F, Rubin M, Sanchez-Cano B, Snodgrass C, Vigren Eet al., 2019, Cometary plasma science -- A white paper in response to the voyage 2050call by the European space agency, Publisher: arXiv

Comets hold the key to the understanding of our solar system, its formationand its evolution, and to the fundamental plasma processes at work both in itand beyond it. A comet nucleus emits gas as it is heated by the sunlight. Thegas forms the coma, where it is ionised, becomes a plasma and eventuallyinteracts with the solar wind. Besides these neutral and ionised gases, thecoma also contains dust grains, released from the comet nucleus. As a cometaryatmosphere develops when the comet travels through the solar system,large-scale structures, such as the plasma boundaries, develop and disappear,while at planets such large-scale structures are only accessible in their fullygrown, quasi-steady state. In situ measurements at comets enable us to learnboth how such large-scale structures are formed or reformed and how small-scaleprocesses in the plasma affect the formation and properties of these largescale structures. Furthermore, a comet goes through a wide range of parameterregimes during its life cycle, where either collisional processes, involvingneutrals and charged particles, or collisionless processes are at play, andmight even compete in complicated transitional regimes. Thus a comet presents aunique opportunity to study this parameter space, from an asteroid-like to aMars- and Venus-like interaction. Fast flybys of comets have made many newdiscoveries, setting the stage for a multi-spacecraft mission to accompany acomet on its journey through the solar system. This white paper reviews thepresent-day knowledge of cometary plasmas, discusses the many questions thatremain unanswered, and outlines a multi-spacecraft ESA mission to accompany acomet that will answer these questions by combining both multi-spacecraftobservations and a rendezvous mission, and at the same time advance ourunderstanding of fundamental plasma physics and its role in planetary systems.

Working paper

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