In-situ chemical and isotopic analysis of a comet by Ptolemy

Morse, A. D.; Barber, S. J.; Leese, M. R.; Morgan, G. H.; Sheridan, S.; Wright, I. P.; Zarnecki, J. C. and Pillinger, C. T. (2003). In-situ chemical and isotopic analysis of a comet by Ptolemy. In: EGU Joint Assembly, 6-11 Apr 2003, Nice, France.



Ptolemy is a Gas Chromatograph - Mass Spectrometer, one of the instruments on board the Rosetta Lander, intended to land on comet Wirtanen. Ptolemy is designed to measure the composition and isotope ratios of gases released from comet samples during pyrolysis or combustion. The total mass of the instrument is 4.6 kg and it fits into a space of 33 x 25 x 11 cm. Following touchdown on the comet nucleus, comet samples are obtained by the SD2 instrument, which drills a core sample and loads it into one of 26 ovens on a carousel. One of the ovens already contains a molecular sieve absorbent so that the comet "atmosphere" can also be sampled. The sample is then heated by the oven and the gases released are transferred to the Ptolemy instrument. Within Ptolemy, the raw sample gases can be chemically processed to convert them into molecules suitable for isotopic analysis. The processed sample mixture gas is injected into one of three GC columns to separate it into its constituent components before analysis by the mass spectrometer. An ion trap mass spectrometer has been used as this gives considerable reduction of mass, power and volume, compared to standard magnetic sector mass spectrometers normally used for isotopic analysis. Laboratory experiments have shown that an ion trap is capable of measuring carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios to a precision of +/- 20 per mil or better. We will present data from the Flight instrument plus results of ongoing characterisation studies using the identical Qualification Model.

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