Ices in the universe: answers from microgravity

Fraser, H. J.; Ehrenfreund, P.; Blum, J.; Cartwright, J. H. E.; Hadamcik, E.; Levasseur-Regourd, A. C.; Price, S.; Prodi, F.; Sarkissan, A. and Seurig, R. (2005). Ices in the universe: answers from microgravity. In: Wilson, Andrew ed. Topical Teams in Life & Physical Sciences: Towards New Research Applications in Space. ESA Special Publication (1281). Noordwijk, The Netherlands: ESA Publications Division, ESTEC, pp. 52–76.


The research detailed in this report focuses on icy particles, spanning key hot topics in astronomy and the atmospheric sciences, including:- star formation;- cometary science;- origins of life;- cloud formation;- polar stratospheric clouds and cirrus formation;- radiative forcing of the Earth's climate;- icy nano-particles;- atmospheric aerosols. In all of these research fields, the chemical and physical interactions of nanoparticles need to be understood at a molecular level and bulk level. In the Earth's atmosphere oron aerosol particles, a liquid-like water layer forms at the surface and governs the chemistry that subsequently occurs. Laboratory and theoretical studies are required to simulate the chemical processes in a variety of astronomical and atmospheric environments.To build comprehensive models, or interpret remote observations of such icy nanoparticles, for example with Earth observation satellites or ground- and space-based telescopes, accurate data on the physical interactions of icy particles are also required.These include understanding the mechanisms and physics governing aggregation processes, or coagulation of iced particles, and the formation of porous regolith.The interplay between electromagnetic radiation and icy particles is paramount to the interpretation of remote- sensing data, and requires a significant effort in experiments studying light-scattering, back-scattering and polarisation effects, as well as the spectroscopy of icy nanoparticles across the whole spectrum. This report highlights the prospects of studying icy nanoparticles using existing, planned and future facilities on Earth, in extraterrestrial missions, and utilising the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS).The scientific benefits of such studies are far-reaching: in such an interdisciplinary field, the data will impact many disciplines, including materials physics, fundamental physics, atmospheric chemistry and exobiology. As such, there is significant overlap between the aims of this research community and the more general aims of ESA's ELIPS programme, as well as the data needs of many ESA directorates, including Human Spaceflight and Science.The results of this research will be invaluable for interpreting data from ongoing and planned ESA missions, such as Rosetta, Mars Express, Venus Express, Smart-1 and Herschel.

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