Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A laboratory experiment has been made where a plasma stream collides with targets made of different materials of cosmic interest. The experiment can be viewed as a process simulation of the solar wind particle interaction with solid surfaces in space — e.g., cometary dust. Special interest is given to sputtering of OH and Na. It is also shown that the erosion of solid particles in interplanetary space at large heliocentric distances is most likely dominated by sputtering and by sublimation near the Sun. The heliocentric distance of the limit between the two regions is determined mainly by the material properties of the eroded surface, e.g., heat of sublimation and sputtering yield, a typical distance being 0.5 AU. It is concluded that the observations of Na in comets at large solar distances, in some cases also near the Sun, is most likely to be explained by solar wind sputtering. OH emission in space could be of importance also from ‘dry’, water-free, matter by means of molecule sputtering. The observed OH production rates in comets are however too large to be explained in this way and are certainly the results of sublimation and dissociation of H2O from an icy nucleus.
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