Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
EPSC Abstracts
Vol.14, EPSC2020-389, 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

MGNS experiment science investigations during BepiColombo cruise

Alexander Kozyrev1, Maxim Litvak1, Anton Sanin1, Alexey Malakhov1, Igor Mitrofanov1, Alan Owens2, Rita Schulz2, and Francesco Quarati3,4
Alexander Kozyrev et al.
  • 1Space Research Institute, Russian Federation (
  • 2European Space Agency, ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
  • 3LumMat/RST/AP, Delft University of Technology, Mekelweg 15, 2629 JB Delft, The Netherlands
  • 4Gonitec BV, J. Bildersstraat 43, 2596 EE Den Haag, The Netherlands

The Mercurian Gamma-ray and Neutron Spectrometer (MGNS) is a scientific instrument developed to study the elementary composition of the Mercury’s sub-surface by measurements of neutron and gamma-ray emission of the planet. MGNS measures neutron fluxes in a wide energy range from thermal energy up to 10 MeV and gamma-rays in the energy range of 300 keV up to 10 MeV with the energy resolution of 5% FWHM at 662 keV and of 2% at 8 MeV. The innovative crystal of CeBr3 is used for getting such a good energy resolution for a scintillation detector of gamma-rays.

During the BC long cruise to Mercury, it is planned that the MGNS instrument will operate practically continuously to perform measurements of neutrons and gamma-ray fluxes for achieving two main goals of investigations.

The first goal is monitoring of the local radiation background of the prompt spacecraft emission due to bombardment by energetic particles of Galactic Cosmic Rays. This data will be taken into account at the mapping phase of the mission on the orbit around Mercury. Detailed knowledge of the spacecraft background radiation during the cruise will help to derive the data for neutron and gamma-ray emission of the planet at the mapping stage of the mission because many elements, like Mg, Na, O and others, the abundance of which at the uppermost layer of the planet is studied, are also present in the material of the spacecraft. Indeed, the nuclear lines of Al, Mg and O are well-pronounced in the spectrum, which are also expected to be detectable in the gamma-ray spectrum of the Mercury emission.

The second goal of MGNS cruise operations is the participation in the Inter Planetary Network (IPN) program for the localization of sources of Gamma-Ray Bursts in the sky. In fact, the localization accuracy by the interplanetary triangulation technique is inversely proportional to the distance between the spacecrafts that jointly detected a GRB. Before the launch of BepiColombo, the IPN network included a group of spacecrafts in the near-to-Earth orbit (e.g. Konus-Wind, Fermi-GBM, INTEGRAL, Insight-HXMT) and the Mars Odyssey spacecraft on the orbit around Mars. Now, MGNS provides another interplanetary location, potentially increasing the accuracy of GRBs localization. During the first 13 months of continuous operation, MGNS detected 24 GRB's. Pre-set value of time resolution for continuous measurements of profiles of GRBs is 20 seconds. Since of November 14, 2019, the BC Mission Operation Centre has allocated downlink resources to run MGNS continuously in a 1 sec time resolution for GRB measurements. The GRB detection rate, based on data with a time resolution of 1 sec is about 2-3 GRB's per month.

Gamma-rays of solar flares are also detectable by MGNS. Solar flares are nonstationary and anisotropic processes and the ability to observe them from different directions in the Solar system is crucial for further understanding their developments and propagation, as it was demonstrated in the case of HEND instrument on board Mars Odyssey. The Sun cycle is presently around its minimum, and MGNS has not detected any solar events during its first 7 months of the cruise, but the flight to Mercury is long enough and many future flares are expected to be detected.

The MGNS instrument will also perform special sessions of measurements during flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury with the objective to measure neutron and gamma-ray albedo of the upper atmosphere of Earth and Venus and of the surface of Mercury. Another objective is to test the computational model of the local background of the spacecraft using the data measured at different orbital phases of flyby trajectories. The low altitude flybys (such as the 700 km flyby for Venus and three 200 km flybys for Mercury) would be the most useful for such tests being BC maximally shadowed for cosmic radiation by the actual planet. Neutron and gamma-ray measurements during Earth flybys enable investigation of interaction between solar wind and Earth environments as well as studies of spacecraft neutron and gamma-ray background upon its passage through the Earth's radiation belts.

How to cite: Kozyrev, A., Litvak, M., Sanin, A., Malakhov, A., Mitrofanov, I., Owens, A., Schulz, R., and Quarati, F.: MGNS experiment science investigations during BepiColombo cruise, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 September–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-389,, 2020