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INSTITUTET FÖR RYMDFYSIK Space Plasma Physics programme, UPPSALA
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Swedish Institute of Space Physics (59o50.272'N, 17o38.786'E)

LAP logo Rosetta is an ambitious project to catch up with a comet, follow it in its orbit for more than a year, and even put a lander on its surface. It now carries our space weather station to the comet!
Back to Rosetta LAP home page
Rosetta LAP home page

Welcome to Rosetta LAP
Our space weather station to a comet

Rosetta and LAP in a nutshell

Rosetta is an ESA (European Space Agency) mission to a comet, launched in 2004 and arriving in 2014. We have built a "space weather station", the Langmuir probe instrument (LAP) to investigate the cometary environment. En route to the comet, we can do measurements in interplanetary space and in the environments of Earth and Mars when we pass by these planets.

The picture below shows Rosetta in space. The large bluish "wings" are the solar panels which provide electricity for all systems onboard the spacecraft. The red circles show the locations of  the two sensors of our instrument, LAP
. One of the two sensors is enlarged at the bottom of the picture. The sensor itself is a titanium sphere 50 mm in diameter, looking goldish because of its titanium nitride coating.

A Langmuir probe is a device to measure weak electric currents flowing between the spacecraft and the surrounding space. "Empty space" is never empty: it always contains a tenuous gas of electrically charged particles, known as a plasma. By measuring the current to the Langmuir probe while varying its potential, we can find out quantities like the density, temperature and flow speed of the plasma. As pressure is density times temperature, we measure the three fundamental properties of all weather stations: temperature, pressure and wind speed: hence we sometimes call our instrument a "space weather station".

The main target of Rosetta is a comet known as 67 P/Churyomov-Gerasimenko. Comets have always been fascinating to mankind. Nowadays, we understand that they are not only beautiful, but that they also may hold important clues to the formation of the solar system, as they are a sort of uncooked leftovers from the time when the solar system was baked into its present shape, preserved in a kind of cosmic freezer for some 4 billion years.

Rosetta with LAP

Science studies

There is still a long way to go to the comet, but we already have some results published:

http://www.space.irfu.se/rosetta/index.html
last modified on Tuesday, 29-Mar-2011 13:03:41 CEST