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Title: The genesis solar-wind sample return mission

Abstract

The compositions of the Earth's crust and mantle, and those of the Moon and Mars, are relatively well known both isotopically and elementally. The same is true of our knowledge of the asteroid belt composition, based on meteorite analyses. Remote measurements of Venus, the Jovian atmosphere, and the outer planet moons, have provided some estimates of their compositions. The Sun constitutes a large majority, > 99%, of all the matter in the solar system. The elemental composition of the photosphere, the visible 'surface' of the Sun, is constrained by absorption lines produced by particles above the surface. Abundances for many elements are reported to the {+-}10 or 20% accuracy level. However, the abundances of other important elements, such as neon, cannot be determined in this way due to a relative lack of atomic states at low excitation energies. Additionally and most importantly, the isotopic composition of the Sun cannot be determined astronomically except for a few species which form molecules above sunspots, and estimates derived from these sources lack the accuracy desired for comparison with meteoritic and planetary surface samples measured on the Earth. The solar wind spreads a sample of solar particles throughout the heliosphere, though the sample ismore » very rarified: collecting a nanogram of oxygen, the third most abundant element, in a square centimeter cross section at the Earth's distance from the Sun takes five years. Nevertheless, foil collectors exposed to the solar wind for periods of hours on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo missions were used to determine the helium and neon solar-wind compositions sufficiently to show that the Earth's atmospheric neon was significantly evolved relative to the Sun. Spacecraft instruments developed subsequently have provided many insights into the composition of the solar wind, mostly in terms of elemental composition. These instruments have the advantage of observing a number of parameters simultaneously, including charge state distributions, velocities, and densities, all of which have been instrumental in characterizing the nature of the solar wind. However, these instruments have lacked the ability to make large dynamic range measurements of adjacent isotopes (i.e., {sup 17}O/{sup 16}O {approx} 2500) or provide the permil (tenths of percent) accuracy desirable for comparison with geochemical isotopic measurements. An accurate knowledge of the solar and solar-wind compositions helps to answer important questions across a number of disciplines. It aids in understanding the acceleration mechanisms of the solar wind, gives an improved picture of the charged particle environment near the photosphere, it constrains processes within the Sun over its history, and it provides a database by which to compare differences among planetary systems with the solar system's starting composition, providing key information on planetary evolution. For example, precise knowledge of solar isotopic and elemental compositions of volatile species in the Sun provides a baseline for models of atmospheric evolution over time for Earth, Venus, and Mars. Additionally, volatile and chemically active elements such as C, H, O, N, and S can tell us about processes active during the evolution of the solar nebula. A classic example of this is the oxygen isotope system. In the 1970s it was determined that the oxygen isotopic ratio in refractory inclusions in primitive meteorites was enriched {approx}4% in {sup 16}O relative to the average terrestrial, lunar, and thermally processed meteorite materials. In addition, all processed solar-system materials appeared to each have a unique oxygen isotopic composition (except the Moon and Earth, which are thought to be formed from the same materials), though differences are in the fraction of a percent range, much smaller than the refractory material {sup 16}O enrichment. Several theories were developed over the years to account for the oxygen isotope heterogeneity, each theory predicting a different solar isotopic composition and each invoking a different early solar-system process to produce the heterogeneity. Other volatiles such as C, N, and H may also have experienced similar effects, but with only two isotopes it is often impossible to distinguish with these elements between mass-dependent fractionation and other effects such as mixing or mass-independent fractionation. Table 1 provides a summary of the major measurement objectives of the Genesis mission. Determining the solar oxygen isotopic composition is at the top of the list. Volatile element and isotope ratios constitute six of the top seven priorities. A number of disciplines stand to gain from information from the Genesis mission, as will be discussed later. Based on the Apollo solar-wind foil experiment, the Genesis mission was designed to capture solar wind over orders of magnitude longer duration and in a potentially much cleaner environment than the lunar surface.« less

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Laboratory
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
971292
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-09-06130; LA-UR-09-6130
TRN: US1001152
DOE Contract Number:  
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Space Research Today
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Space Research Today
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58; ABSORPTION; ACCELERATION; CHARGE STATES; CHARGED PARTICLES; CROSS SECTIONS; EXCITATION; FRACTIONATION; HELIOSPHERE; HELIUM; ISOTOPE RATIO; NEON; ORIGIN; OXYGEN; OXYGEN ISOTOPES; PHOTOSPHERE; SOLAR NEBULA; SOLAR PARTICLES; SOLAR SYSTEM; SOLAR SYSTEM EVOLUTION; SOLAR WIND; SUN; SUNSPOTS

Citation Formats

Wiens, Roger C. The genesis solar-wind sample return mission. United States: N. p., 2009. Web.
Wiens, Roger C. The genesis solar-wind sample return mission. United States.
Wiens, Roger C. Thu . "The genesis solar-wind sample return mission". United States. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/971292.
@article{osti_971292,
title = {The genesis solar-wind sample return mission},
author = {Wiens, Roger C},
abstractNote = {The compositions of the Earth's crust and mantle, and those of the Moon and Mars, are relatively well known both isotopically and elementally. The same is true of our knowledge of the asteroid belt composition, based on meteorite analyses. Remote measurements of Venus, the Jovian atmosphere, and the outer planet moons, have provided some estimates of their compositions. The Sun constitutes a large majority, > 99%, of all the matter in the solar system. The elemental composition of the photosphere, the visible 'surface' of the Sun, is constrained by absorption lines produced by particles above the surface. Abundances for many elements are reported to the {+-}10 or 20% accuracy level. However, the abundances of other important elements, such as neon, cannot be determined in this way due to a relative lack of atomic states at low excitation energies. Additionally and most importantly, the isotopic composition of the Sun cannot be determined astronomically except for a few species which form molecules above sunspots, and estimates derived from these sources lack the accuracy desired for comparison with meteoritic and planetary surface samples measured on the Earth. The solar wind spreads a sample of solar particles throughout the heliosphere, though the sample is very rarified: collecting a nanogram of oxygen, the third most abundant element, in a square centimeter cross section at the Earth's distance from the Sun takes five years. Nevertheless, foil collectors exposed to the solar wind for periods of hours on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo missions were used to determine the helium and neon solar-wind compositions sufficiently to show that the Earth's atmospheric neon was significantly evolved relative to the Sun. Spacecraft instruments developed subsequently have provided many insights into the composition of the solar wind, mostly in terms of elemental composition. These instruments have the advantage of observing a number of parameters simultaneously, including charge state distributions, velocities, and densities, all of which have been instrumental in characterizing the nature of the solar wind. However, these instruments have lacked the ability to make large dynamic range measurements of adjacent isotopes (i.e., {sup 17}O/{sup 16}O {approx} 2500) or provide the permil (tenths of percent) accuracy desirable for comparison with geochemical isotopic measurements. An accurate knowledge of the solar and solar-wind compositions helps to answer important questions across a number of disciplines. It aids in understanding the acceleration mechanisms of the solar wind, gives an improved picture of the charged particle environment near the photosphere, it constrains processes within the Sun over its history, and it provides a database by which to compare differences among planetary systems with the solar system's starting composition, providing key information on planetary evolution. For example, precise knowledge of solar isotopic and elemental compositions of volatile species in the Sun provides a baseline for models of atmospheric evolution over time for Earth, Venus, and Mars. Additionally, volatile and chemically active elements such as C, H, O, N, and S can tell us about processes active during the evolution of the solar nebula. A classic example of this is the oxygen isotope system. In the 1970s it was determined that the oxygen isotopic ratio in refractory inclusions in primitive meteorites was enriched {approx}4% in {sup 16}O relative to the average terrestrial, lunar, and thermally processed meteorite materials. In addition, all processed solar-system materials appeared to each have a unique oxygen isotopic composition (except the Moon and Earth, which are thought to be formed from the same materials), though differences are in the fraction of a percent range, much smaller than the refractory material {sup 16}O enrichment. Several theories were developed over the years to account for the oxygen isotope heterogeneity, each theory predicting a different solar isotopic composition and each invoking a different early solar-system process to produce the heterogeneity. Other volatiles such as C, N, and H may also have experienced similar effects, but with only two isotopes it is often impossible to distinguish with these elements between mass-dependent fractionation and other effects such as mixing or mass-independent fractionation. Table 1 provides a summary of the major measurement objectives of the Genesis mission. Determining the solar oxygen isotopic composition is at the top of the list. Volatile element and isotope ratios constitute six of the top seven priorities. A number of disciplines stand to gain from information from the Genesis mission, as will be discussed later. Based on the Apollo solar-wind foil experiment, the Genesis mission was designed to capture solar wind over orders of magnitude longer duration and in a potentially much cleaner environment than the lunar surface.},
doi = {},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/971292}, journal = {Space Research Today},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2009},
month = {1}
}