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Document reference: CDF-152(A)

ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) have completed a study of a Next Generation-Cryogenic cooled InfraRed Telescope (NG-CryoIRTel). The purpose of this study is to support the European and Japanese science community in defining a post-SPICA mission for the Cosmic Vision M5 call. Full details of the study can be found in this report.

Published: 30 December 2014
Exoplanets orbiting close to their parent stars may lose some fraction of their atmospheres because of the extreme irradiation. Atmospheric mass loss primarily affects low-mass exoplanets, leading to the suggestion that hot rocky planets might have begun as Neptune-like, but subsequently lost all of their atmospheres; however, no confident measurements have hitherto been available. The signature of this loss could be observed in the ultraviolet spectrum, when the planet and its escaping atmosphere transit the star, giving rise to deeper and longer transit signatures than in the optical spectrum. Here we report that in the ultraviolet the Neptune-mass exoplanet GJ 436b (also known as Gliese 436b) has transit depths of 56.3 ± 3.5% (1σ), far beyond the 0.69% optical transit depth. The ultraviolet transits repeatedly start about two hours before, and end more than three hours after the approximately one hour optical transit, which is substantially different from one previous claim (based on an inaccurate ephemeris). We infer from this that the planet is surrounded and trailed by a large exospheric cloud composed mainly of hydrogen atoms. We estimate a mass-loss rate in the range of about 108-109 grams per second, which is far too small to deplete the atmosphere of a Neptune-like planet in the lifetime of the parent star, but would have been much greater in the past.
Published: 26 June 2015
Accepted for publication: 11 May 2015

Context. The European Space Agency Rosetta mission reached and started escorting its main target, the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at the beginning of August 2014. Within the context of solar system small bodies, satellite searches from approaching spacecraft were extensively used in the past to study the nature of the visited bodies and their collisional environment.
Aims. During the approaching phase to the comet in July 2014, the OSIRIS instrument onboard Rosetta performed a campaign aimed at detecting objects in the vicinity of the comet nucleus and at measuring these objects' possible bound orbits. In addition to the scientific purpose, the search also focused on spacecraft security to avoid hazardous material in the comet's environment.
Methods. Images in the red spectral domain were acquired with the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera, when the spacecraft was at a distance between 5785 km and 5463 km to the comet, following an observational strategy tailored to maximize the scientific outcome. From the acquired images, sources were extracted and displayed to search for plausible displacements of all sources from image to image. After stars were identified, the remaining sources were thoroughly analyzed. To place constraints on the expected displacements of a potential satellite, we performed Monte Carlo simulations on the apparent motion of potential satellites within the Hill sphere.
Results. We found no unambiguous detections of objects larger than ~6 m within ~20 km and larger than ~1 m between ~20 km and ~110 km from the nucleus, using images with an exposure time of 0.14 s and 1.36 s, respectively. Our conclusions are consistent with independent works on dust grains in the comet coma and on boulders counting on the nucleus surface.
--- Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations ---

Published: 12 May 2015
Accepted for publication: 9 April 2015.

Context. We investigate the dust coma within the Hill sphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Aims. We aim to determine osculating orbital elements for individual distinguishable but unresolved slow-moving grains in the vicinity of the nucleus. In addition, we perform photometry and constrain grain sizes.
Methods. We performed astrometry and photometry using images acquired by the OSIRIS Wide Angle Camera on the European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta. Based on these measurements, we employed standard orbit determination and orbit improvement techniques.
Results. Orbital elements and effective diameters of four grains were constrained, but we were unable to uniquely determine them. Two of the grains have light curves that indicate grain rotation.
Conclusions. The four grains have diameters nominally in the range 0.14–0.50 m. For three of the grains, we found elliptic orbits, which is consistent with a cloud of bound particles around the nucleus. However, hyperbolic escape trajectories cannot be excluded for any of the grains, and for one grain this is the only known option. One grain may have originated from the surface shortly before observation. These results have possible implications for the understanding of the dispersal of the cloud of bound debris around comet nuclei, as well as for understanding the ejection of large grains far from the Sun.

Published: 10 April 2015
Accepted for publication: 2 May 2015.

The Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) has been observing the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko almost continuously since June 2014 at wavelengths near 0.53 mm. We present here a map of the water column density in the inner coma (within 3 km from nucleus center) when the comet was at 3.4 AU from the Sun. Based on the analysis of the H216O and H218O (110-101) lines, we find that the column density can vary by two orders of magnitude in this region. The highest column density is observed in a narrow region on the dayside, close to the neck and north pole rotation axis of the nucleus, while the lowest column density is seen against the nightside of the nucleus where outgassing seems to be very low. We estimate that the outgassing pattern can be represented by a Gaussian distribution in a solid angle with FWHM ≈ 80°

Published: 03 May 2015
Venus is known to have been volcanically resurfaced in the last third of solar system history and to have undergone a significant decrease in volcanic activity a few hundred million years ago. However, fundamental questions remain: Is Venus still volcanically active today, and if so, where and in what geological and geodynamic environment? Here we show evidence from the Venus Express Venus Monitoring Camera for transient bright spots that are consistent with the extrusion of lava flows that locally cause significantly elevated surface temperatures. The very strong spatial correlation of the transient bright spots with the extremely young Ganiki Chasma, their similarity to locations of rift-associated volcanism on Earth, provide strong evidence for their volcanic origin and suggests that Venus is currently geodynamically active.
Published: 19 June 2015
First published online 4 June 2015.

Titan's polar surface is dotted with hundreds of lacustrine depressions. Based on the hypothesis that they are karstic in origin, we aim at determining the efficiency of surface dissolution as a landshaping process on Titan, in a comparative planetology perspective with the Earth as reference. Our approach is based on the calculation of solutional denudation rates and allow inference of formation timescales for topographic depressions developed by chemical erosion on both planetary bodies. The model depends on the solubility of solids in liquids, the density of solids and liquids, and the average annual net rainfall rates. We compute and compare the denudation rates of pure solid organics in liquid hydrocarbons and of minerals in liquid water over Titan and Earth timescales. We then investigate the denudation rates of a superficial organic layer in liquid methane over one Titan year. At this timescale, such a layer on Titan would behave like salts or carbonates on Earth depending on its composition, which means that dissolution processes would likely occur but would be 30 times slower on Titan compared to the Earth due to the seasonality of precipitation. Assuming an average depth of 100 m for Titan's lacustrine depressions, these could have developed in a few tens of millions of years at polar latitudes higher than 70°N and S, and a few hundreds of million years at lower polar latitudes. The ages determined are consistent with the youth of the surface (<1 Gyr) and the repartition of dissolution-related landforms on Titan.

Published: 05 June 2015
Four small moons—Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra—follow near-circular, near-equatorial orbits around the central 'binary planet' comprising Pluto and its large moon, Charon. New observational details of the system have emerged following the discoveries of Kerberos and Styx. Here we report that Styx, Nix and Hydra are tied together by a three-body resonance, which is reminiscent of the Laplace resonance linking Jupiter's moons Io, Europa and Ganymede. Perturbations by the other bodies, however, inject chaos into this otherwise stable configuration. Nix and Hydra have bright surfaces similar to that of Charon. Kerberos may be much darker, raising questions about how a heterogeneous satellite system might have formed. Nix and Hydra rotate chaotically, driven by the large torques of the Pluto–Charon binary.
Published: 05 June 2015

Aims. The Alice far-ultraviolet spectrograph onboard Rosetta is designed to observe emissions from various atomic and molecular species from within the coma of comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko and to determine their spatial distribution and evolution with time and heliocentric distance.

Methods. Following orbit insertion in August 2014, Alice made observations of the inner coma above the limbs of the nucleus of the comet from cometocentric distances varying between 10 and 80 km. Depending on the position and orientation of the slit relative to the nucleus, emissions of atomic hydrogen and oxygen were initially detected. These emissions are spatially localized close to the nucleus and spatially variable with a strong enhancement above the comet's neck at northern latitudes. Weaker emission from atomic carbon and CO were subsequently detected.

Results. Analysis of the relative line intensities suggests photoelectron impact dissociation of H2O vapor as the source of the observed HI and OI emissions. The electrons are produced by photoionization of H2O. The observed CI emissions are also attributed to electron impact dissociation, of CO2, and their relative brightness to HI reflects the variation of CO2 to H2O column abundance in the coma.

Published: 03 June 2015
The ubiquity of filamentary structure at various scales throughout the Galaxy has triggered a renewed interest in their formation, evolution, and role in star formation. The largest filaments can reach up to Galactic scale as part of the spiral arm structure. However, such large-scale filaments are hard to identify systematically due to limitations in identifying methodology (i.e. as extinction features). We present a new approach to directly search for the largest, coldest, and densest filaments in the Galaxy, making use of sensitive Herschel Hi-GAL (Herschel Infrared Galactic Plane Survey) data complemented by spectral line cubes. We present a sample of the nine most prominent Herschel filaments, including six identified from a pilot search field plus three from outside the field. These filaments measure 37–99 pc long and 0.6–3.0 pc wide with masses (0.5–8.3) × 104 MSun, and beam-averaged (28 arcsec, or 0.4–0.7 pc) peak H2 column densities of (1.7–9.3)× 1022 cm−2. The bulk of the filaments are relatively cold (17–21 K), while some local clumps have a dust temperature up to 25–47 K. All the filaments are located within ≲60 pc from the Galactic mid-plane. Comparing the filaments to a recent spiral arm model incorporating the latest parallax measurements, we find that 7/9 of them reside within arms, but most are close to arm edges. These filaments are comparable in length to the Galactic scaleheight and therefore are not simply part of a grander turbulent cascade.
Published: 29 May 2015
Observations of molecular clouds reveal a complex structure, with gas and dust often arranged in filamentary, rather than spherical geometries. The association of pre- and proto-stellar cores with the filaments suggests a direct link with the process of star formation. Any study of the properties of such filaments requires representative samples from different environments for an unbiased detection method. We developed such an approach using the Hessian matrix of a surface-brightness distribution to identify filaments and determine their physical and morphological properties. After testing the method on simulated, but realistic, filaments, we apply the algorithms to column-density maps computed from Herschel observations of the Galactic plane obtained by the Hi-GAL project. We identified ~500 filaments, in the longitude range of l = 216.°5 to l = 225.°5, with lengths from ~1 pc up to ~30 pc and widths between 0.1 pc and 2.5 pc. Average column densities are between 1020 cm-2 and 1022 cm-2. Filaments include the majority of dense material with N_H_{2} > 6 × 1021 cm-2. We find that the pre- and proto-stellar compact sources already identified in the same region are mostly associated with filaments. However, surface densities in excess of the expected critical values for high-mass star formation are only found on the filaments, indicating that these structures are necessary to channel material into the clumps. Furthermore, we analyze the gravitational stability of filaments and discuss their relationship with star formation.
Published: 11 August 2014
We present the first Herschel PACS and SPIRE photometric observations in a portion of the outer Galaxy (216.°5 <~ l <~ 225.°5 and -2° <~ b <~ 0°) as a part of the Hi-GAL survey. The maps between 70 and 500 um, the derived column density and temperature maps, and the compact source catalog are presented. NANTEN CO(1-0) line observations are used to derive cloud kinematics and distances so that we can estimate distance-dependent physical parameters of the compact sources (cores and clumps) having a reliable spectral energy distribution that we separate into 255 proto-stellar and 688 starless sources. Both typologies are found in association with all the distance components observed in the field, up to ~5.8 kpc, testifying to the presence of star formation beyond the Perseus arm at these longitudes. Selecting the starless gravitationally bound sources, we identify 590 pre-stellar candidates. Several sources of both proto- and pre-stellar nature are found to exceed the minimum requirement for being compatible with massive star formation based on the mass-radius relation. For the pre-stellar sources belonging to the Local arm (d <~ 1.5 kpc) we study the mass function whose high-mass end shows a power law N(log M) ∝ M -1.0 ± 0.2. Finally, we use a luminosity versus mass diagram to infer the evolutionary status of the sources, finding that most of the proto-stellar sources are in the early accretion phase (with some cases compatible with a Class I stage), while for pre-stellar sources, in general, accretion has not yet started.
Published: 21 July 2013
Recent studies of the nearest star-forming clouds of the Galaxy at submillimeter wavelengths with the Herschel Space Observatory have provided us with unprecedented images of the initial and boundary conditions of the star-formation process. The Herschel results emphasize the role of interstellar filaments in the star-formation process and connect remarkably well with nearly a decade's worth of numerical simulations and theory that have consistently shown that the interstellar medium (ISM) should be highly filamentary on all scales, and star formation is intimately related to self-gravitating filaments. In this review, we trace how the apparent complexity of cloud structure and star formation is governed by relatively simple universal processes --- from filamentary clumps to galactic scales. We emphasize two crucial and complementary aspects: (1) the key observational results obtained with Herschel over the past three years, along with relevant new results obtained from the ground on the kinematics of interstellar structures; and (2) the key existing theoretical models and the many numerical simulations of interstellar cloud structure and star formation. We then synthesize a comprehensive physical picture that arises from the confrontation of these observations and simulations.
Published: 01 January 2014
We investigate the gas velocity dispersions of a sample of filaments recently detected as part of the Herschel Gould Belt Survey in the IC 5146, Aquila, and Polaris interstellar clouds. To measure these velocity dispersions, we use 13CO, C18O, and N2H+ line observations obtained with the IRAM 30 m telescope. Correlating our velocity dispersion measurements with the filament column densities derived from Herschel data, we show that interstellar filaments can be divided into two regimes: thermally subcritical filaments, which have transonic velocity dispersions (cs ≲ sigmatot < 2 cs) independent of column density and are gravitationally unbound; and thermally supercritical filaments, which have higher velocity dispersions scaling roughly as the square root of column density (tot ∝ Sigma00.5) and which are self-gravitating. The higher velocity dispersions of supercritical filaments may not directly arise from supersonic interstellar turbulence but may be driven by gravitational contraction/accretion. Based on our observational results, we propose an evolutionary scenario whereby supercritical filaments undergo gravitational contraction and increase in mass per unit length through accretion of background material, while remaining in rough virial balance. We further suggest that this accretion process allows supercritical filaments to keep their approximately constant inner widths (~0.1 pc) while contracting.
Published: 21 May 2013
We present first results from the Herschel Gould Belt survey for the B211/L1495 region in the Taurus molecular cloud. Thanks to their high sensitivity and dynamic range, the Herschel images reveal the structure of the dense, star-forming filament B211 with unprecedented detail, along with the presence of striations perpendicular to the filament and generally oriented along the magnetic field direction as traced by optical polarization vectors. Based on the column density and dust temperature maps derived from the Herschel data, we find that the radial density profile of the B211 filament approaches power-law behavior, rho ∝ r-2.0± 0.4, at large radii and that the temperature profile exhibits a marked drop at small radii. The observed density and temperature profiles of the B211 filament are in good agreement with a theoretical model of a cylindrical filament undergoing gravitational contraction with a polytropic equation of state: P ∝ rhogamma and T ∝ rhogamma-1, with gamma = 0.97 ± 0.01 < 1 (i.e., not strictly isothermal). The morphology of the column density map, where some of the perpendicular striations are apparently connected to the B211 filament, further suggests that the material may be accreting along the striations onto the main filament. The typical velocities expected for the infalling material in this picture are ~0.5-1 km s-1, which are consistent with the existing kinematical constraints from previous CO observations.
Published: 23 January 2013
We present Herschel survey maps of the L 1641 molecular clouds in Orion A. We extracted both the filaments and dense cores in the region. We identified which of the dense sources are proto- or pre-stellar, and studied their association with the identified filaments. We find that although most (71%) of the pre-stellar sources are located on filaments there, is still a significant fraction of sources not associated with such structures. We find that these two populations (on and off the identified filaments) have distinctly different mass distributions. The mass distribution of the sources on the filaments is found to peak at 4 MSun and drives the shape of the core mass function (CMF) at higher masses, which we fit with a power law of the form dN/dlogM ∝ M-1.4 ± 0.4. The mass distribution of the sources off the filaments, on the other hand, peaks at 0.8 MSun and leads to a flattening of the CMF at masses lower than ~4 MSun. We postulate that this difference between the mass distributions is due to the higher proportion of gas that is available in the filaments, rather than in the diffuse cloud.
Published: 10 November 2013
We present the first results from the science demonstration phase for the Hi-GAL survey, the Herschel key program that will map the inner Galactic plane of the Milky Way in 5 bands. We outline our data reduction strategy and present some science highlights on the two observed 2°×2° tiles approximately centered at l=30° and l=59°. The two regions are extremely rich in intense and highly structured extended emission which shows a widespread organization in filaments. Source SEDs can be built for hundreds of objects in the two fields, and physical parameters can be extracted, for a good fraction of them where the distance could be estimated. The compact sources (which we will call cores in the following) are found for the most part to be associated with the filaments, and the relationship to the local beam-averaged column density of the filament itself shows that a core seems to appear when a threshold around AV~1 is exceeded for the regions in the l=59° field; a AV value between 5 and 10 is found for the l=30° field, likely due to the relatively higher distances of the sources. This outlines an exciting scenario where diffuse clouds first collapse into filaments, which later fragment to cores where the column density has reached a critical level. In spite of core L/M ratios being well in excess of a few for many sources, we find core surface densities between 0.03 and 0.5 g cm-2. Our results are in good agreement with recent MHD numerical simulations of filaments forming from large-scale converging flows.
Published: 17 July 2010
We show for the first time, with direct, multispacecraft calculations of electric current density, and other methods, matched signatures of field-aligned currents (FACs) sampled simultaneously near the ionosphere at low (~500 km altitude) orbit and in the magnetosphere at medium (~2.5 RE altitude) orbits using a particular Swarm and Cluster conjunction. The Cluster signatures are interpreted and ordered through joint mapping of the ground/magnetospheric footprints and estimation of the auroral zone boundaries (taken as indication of the boundaries of Region 1 and Region 2 currents). We find clear evidence of both small-scale and large-scale FACs and clear matching of the behavior and structure of the large-scale currents at both Cluster and Swarm. The methodology is made possible through the joint operations of Cluster and Swarm, which contain, in the first several months of Swarm operations, a number of close three-spacecraft configurations.
Published: 29 May 2015
In this study, we apply a new method–the first-order Taylor expansion (FOTE)–to find magnetic nulls and reconstruct magnetic field topology, in order to use it with the data from the forthcoming MMS mission. We compare this method with the previously used Poincare index (PI), and find that they are generally consistent, except that the PI method can only find a null inside the spacecraft (SC) tetrahedron, while the FOTE method can find a null both inside and outside the tetrahedron and also deduce its drift velocity. In addition, the FOTE method can (1) avoid limitations of the PI method such as data resolution, instrument uncertainty (Bz offset), and SC separation; (2) identify 3-D null types (A, B, As, and Bs) and determine whether these types can degenerate into 2-D (X and O); (3) reconstruct the magnetic field topology. We quantitatively test the accuracy of FOTE in positioning magnetic nulls and reconstructing field topology by using the data from 3-D kinetic simulations. The influences of SC separation (0.05~1 di) and null-SC distance (0~1 di) on the accuracy are both considered. We find that (1) for an isolated null, the method is accurate when the SC separation is smaller than 1 di, and the null-SC distance is smaller than 0.25~0.5 di; (2) for a null pair, the accuracy is same as in the isolated-null situation, except at the separator line, where the field is nonlinear. We define a parameter ξ ≡ |( λ1 + λ2 + λ3 )|/|λ|max in terms of the eigenvalues (λi) of the null to quantify the quality of our method–the smaller this parameter the better the results. Comparing to the previously used parameter (η≡|∇ ⋅ B|/|∇ × B|), ξ is more relevant for null identification.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 28 May 2015
Accepted for publication: 15 May 2015

Since OSIRIS started acquiring high-resolution observations of the surface of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, over one hundred meter-sized bright spots have been identified in numerous types of geomorphologic regions, but mostly located in areas receiving low insolation. The bright spots are either clustered, in debris fields close to decameter-high cliffs, or isolated without structural relation to the surrounding terrain. They can be up to ten times brighter than the average surface of the comet at visible wavelengths and display a significantly bluer spectrum. They do not exhibit significant changes over a period of a few weeks. All these observations are consistent with exposure of water ice at the surface of boulders produced by dislocation of the weakly consolidated layers that cover large areas of the nucleus. Laboratory experiments show that under simulated comet surface conditions, analog samples acquire a vertical stratification with an uppermost porous mantle of refractory dust overlaying a layer of hard ice formed by recondensation or sintering under the insulating dust mantle. The evolution of the visible spectrophotometric properties of samples during sublimation is consistent with the contrasts of brightness and color seen at the surface of the nucleus. Clustered bright spots are formed by the collapse of overhangs that is triggered by mass wasting of deeper layers. Isolated spots might be the result of the emission of boulders at low velocity that are redepositioned in other regions.

Published: 16 May 2015
22-May-2024 10:38 UT

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