Imperial College
The Imperial College Rosetta Project
The Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC)

The RPC is a consortium of five sensors capable of complementary measurements of the plasma environment around the comet.

The goal set by the RPC Science Team is to provide in-situ investigations with complementary data necessary for an understanding of the processes in the inner coma and their relationship to the evolution of structures in the coma with the increase in cometary activity.

Five sensors have been selected to achieve this aim:

The need for scientific and technical coordination as well as spacecraft resources optimization has led to the formation of the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC).

The single Plasma Package Interface Unit, PIU, and the common Electrical Ground Support equipment complement the RPC.


The Scientific Objectives

Physical properties of the nucleus

  • The RPC sensors will detect early activity of the cometary nucleus. As soon as sublimation activity starts, expected when the comet is a few AU from the Sun, ion pickup of ionized neutrals will begin. The direct detection of these ions will be possible, as will the effect in terms of the increase of plasma wave activity.
  • Analysis of the electromagnetic activity in the region surrounding the nucleus can give information on the conductivity and any remanent magnetization of the cometary nucleus itself.


Inner coma structure, dynamics and aeronomy

  • RPC will study photochemical reactions which change parent atoms, molecules and ions into 'daughter' products.
  • RPC measurements will determine the physical processes controlling the mass flow, time evolution and plasma structure of the inner coma and its interaction with the solar wind, energetic ions and fields. Any inner shock will be studied. This sets a framework within which mass spectromatic and other microscopic studies are made.


Onset and development of cometary activity

  • Study of bare nucleus at large heliospheric distances.
  • Study of developing solar wind-comet interaction, including the formation of plasma boundries.


Solar wind interaction

  • Physics of the contact surface: its development, structure and stability.
  • Exploration of the inner cometary coma and cavity-tail connection region.
  • Development of boundries in the plasma near the comet.


Formation and evolution of the plasma tail

  • Tail structures and tail ray formation region.
  • Tail disconnection event studies.

This page was last updated September 2002.