In-Situ Observations of Cometary Pick-Up Ions ≥0.2 Au Upstream of Comet Halley: Ice Observations

  1. Thomas J. Birmingham and
  2. Alexander J. Dessler
  1. K.-P. Wenzel,
  2. T.R. Sanderson,
  3. I.G. Richardson,
  4. S.W.H. Cowley,
  5. R.J. Hynds,
  6. S.J. Bame,
  7. R.D. Zwickl,
  8. E.J. Smith and
  9. B.T. Tsurutani

Published Online: 19 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/SP027p0013

Comet Encounters

Comet Encounters

How to Cite

Wenzel, K.-P., Sanderson, T.R., Richardson, I.G., Cowley, S.W.H., Hynds, R.J., Bame, S.J., Zwickl, R.D., Smith, E.J. and Tsurutani, B.T. (1988) In-Situ Observations of Cometary Pick-Up Ions ≥0.2 Au Upstream of Comet Halley: Ice Observations, in Comet Encounters (eds T. J. Birmingham and A. J. Dessler), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C.. doi: 10.1029/SP027p0013

Author Information

  1. Space Science Department of ESA, ESTEC, Noordwijk, NL

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1988

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875902395

Online ISBN: 9781118668757



  • Antisolar;
  • Cometary pick-up ions;
  • Energetic ion instrument;
  • International Cometary Explorer (ICE);
  • Solar wind;
  • Water group ion cyclotron


Burst-like enhancements of energetic ions were observed by the EPAS instrument on the International Cometary Explorer (ICE) during its closest approach to (28×106 km upstream of) Comet P/Halley, in late March 1986. The enhancements showed considerable temporal structure and highly anisotropic angular distributions, with strong ion streaming in the antisolar direction. The ion intensity was modulated by the varying solar wind speed (the latter reaching maxima of around 600 km s−1), as was found to be the case for heavy cometary ions accelerated by pick-up in the solar wind flow, during the ICE encounter with Comet P/Giacobini-Zinner (G-Z). We therefore conclude that we observed pick-up ions (most probably ≥65 keV oxygen ions) produced by heavy neutrals from Comet Halley. The region of pick-up ions extended to more than 0.2 AU (∼35×106 km) from the nucleus at this time, at least three times further than was observed during the Giotto and VEGA encounters. The observations of energetic ions at such large distances suggest the presence, in the neutral atmosphere surrounding the nucleus, of a component with an ionisation scale length of 5–10 million km, resulting from a relatively high expansion speed of a few km s−1 and/or an ionisation time scale of a few times 106 s.