EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Chlorine-bearing species and the 37Cl/35Cl isotope ratio in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Frederik Dhooghe1, Johan De Keyser1,2, Nora Hänni3, Kathrin Altwegg3,4, Gaël Cessateur1, Emmanuel Jehin5, Martin Rubin3, and Peter Wurz3,4
Frederik Dhooghe et al.
  • 1Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium (
  • 2Center for Mathematical Plasma Astrophysics, KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • 3Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 4Center for Space and Habitability, Bern, Switzerland
  • 5STAR Institute, University of Liège, Belgium

A full-mission analysis of Cl-bearing species in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been conducted using data from the Rosetta ROSINA/DFMS mass spectrometer. This contribution will focus on the challenges encountered to relate DFMS data on Cl-bearing species to the neutral abundances at the comet.

DFMS was operated in neutral mode, in which electron impact ionizes a fraction of the incoming neutral gas in the ion source. Only ions in a narrow range around a certain commanded mass-over-charge ratio (m/z) pass through the mass analyser at a time and impact on a micro-channel plate (MCP), creating an electron avalanche that is recorded by a Linear Electron Detector Array chip with two rows of 512 pixels each (LEDA A and LEDA B). Data are obtained as Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) counts as a function of LEDA pixel number. The instrument scans over a sequence of m/z values.

A well-defined approach exists to convert ADC counts as a function of pixel number to the number of ions that were detected on the MCP. However, to relate the number of ions detected this way to the abundance of neutrals in the coma gas, the sensitivity for each neutral needs to be known. The sensitivity for a certain neutral takes into account the total ionization cross section for the neutral and product ion fraction, instrument transmission and secondary electron yield for each product ion. Sensitivities can be determined experimentally by introducing the neutrals in the DFMS instrument copy in the laboratory, but such data are not available for Cl-bearing species and an alternative approach needs to be used. Fortunately, the use of ratios cancels out some of the factors that play a role in the sensitivity. As an example, for the 37Cl/35Cl ratio, total ionization cross sections and product ion fractions can be considered identical. In the case of 37Cl/35Cl, taking into account the sensitivity results in a correction of more than 15%, mainly due to the secondary electron yield.

The 37Cl/35Cl ratio does not appear to change appreciably throughout the mission and is compared with known values from other solar system objects. The Cl/HCl ratio obtained with DFMS indicates that there must be at least one additional chlorine-bearing species on the comet next to HCl, CH3Cl and NH4Cl, the identity of which is unknown at this time.

How to cite: Dhooghe, F., De Keyser, J., Hänni, N., Altwegg, K., Cessateur, G., Jehin, E., Rubin, M., and Wurz, P.: Chlorine-bearing species and the 37Cl/35Cl isotope ratio in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10601,, 2021.

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