Space Science Reviews

, Volume 90, Issue 1–2, pp 3–18 | Cite as

Composition of the Volatile Material in Halley's Coma from In Situ Measurements

  • K. Altwegg
  • H. Balsiger
  • J. Geiss


The investigation of the volatile material in the coma of comets is a key to understanding the origin of cometary material, the physical and chemical conditions in the early solar system, the process of comet formation, and the changes that comets have undergone during the last 4.6 billion years. So far, in situ investigations of the volatile constituents have been confined to a single comet, namely P/Halley in 1986. Although, the Giotto mission gave only a few hours of data from the coma, it has yielded a surprising amount of new data and has advanced cometary science by a large step. In the present article the most important results of the measurements of the volatile material of Halley's comet are summarized and an overview of the identified molecules is given. Furthermore, a list of identified radicals and unstable molecules is presented for the first time. At least one of the radicals, namely CH2, seems to be present as such in the cometary ice.

As an outlook to the future we present a list of open questions concerning cometary volatiles and a short preview on the next generation of mass spectrometers that are being built for the International Rosetta Mission to explore the coma of Comet Wirtanen.

P/Halley Volatiles Radicals 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Altwegg
  • H. Balsiger
  • J. Geiss

There are no affiliations available

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