Cometary ions detected by the Cassini spacecraft 6.5 au downstream of Comet 153P/Ikeya–Zhang

G. H. Jones, H. A. Elliott, D. J. McComas, M. E. Hill, J. Vandegriff, E. J. Smith, F. J. Crary, J. H. Waite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During March–April 2002, while between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft detected a significant enhancement in pickup proton flux. The most likely explanation for this enhancement was the addition of protons to the solar wind by the ionization of neutral hydrogen in the corona of comet 153P/Ikeya–Zhang. This comet passed relatively close to the Sun–Cassini line during that period, allowing pickup ions to be carried to Cassini by the solar wind. This pickup proton flux could have been further modulated by the passage of the interplanetary counterparts of coronal mass ejections past the comet and spacecraft. The radial distance of 6.5 Astronomical Units (au) traveled by the pickup protons, and the implied total tail length of >7.5 au make this cometary ion tail the longest yet measured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115199
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Comets
  • Ion tail
  • Solar wind


Dive into the research topics of 'Cometary ions detected by the Cassini spacecraft 6.5 au downstream of Comet 153P/Ikeya–Zhang'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this