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Origin of Molecular Oxygen in Comets: Current Knowledge and Perspectives

  • Luspay-Kuti, Adrienn1
  • Mousis, Olivier2
  • Lunine, Jonathan I.3, 4
  • Ellinger, Yves5
  • Pauzat, Françoise5
  • Raut, Ujjwal6
  • Bouquet, Alexis6, 7
  • Mandt, Kathleen E.1
  • Maggiolo, Romain8
  • Ronnet, Thomas2
  • Brugger, Bastien2
  • Ozgurel, Ozge5
  • Fuselier, Stephen A.6, 7
  • 1 Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory, 11100 Johns Hopkins Rd., Laurel, MD, 20723, USA , Laurel (United States)
  • 2 Aix-Marseille Université & OSU Pythéas, Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, UMR CNRS 7326, Marseille, France , Marseille (France)
  • 3 Cornell University, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA , Ithaca (United States)
  • 4 California Institute of Technology, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Pasadena, CA, 91125, USA , Pasadena (United States)
  • 5 Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire de Chimie Théorique, LCT, Paris, 75005, France , Paris (France)
  • 6 Southwest Research Institute, Department of Space Research, 6220 Culebra Rd., San Antonio, TX, 78238, USA , San Antonio (United States)
  • 7 University of Texas at San Antonio, Department of Physics and Astronomy, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX, 78249, USA , San Antonio (United States)
  • 8 Royal Institute for Space Aeronomy, 3 Avenue Circulaire, Brussels, Belgium , Brussels (Belgium)
Published Article
Space Science Reviews
Publication Date
Oct 18, 2018
DOI: 10.1007/s11214-018-0541-2
Springer Nature


The Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument onboard the Rosetta spacecraft has measured molecular oxygen (O2) in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) in surprisingly high abundances. These measurements mark the first unequivocal detection of O2 in a cometary environment. The large relative abundance of O2 in 67P/C-G despite its high reactivity and low interstellar abundance poses a puzzle for its origin in comet 67P/C-G, and potentially other comets. Since its detection, there have been a number of hypotheses put forward to explain the production and origin of O2 in the comet. These hypotheses cover a wide range of possibilities from various in situ production mechanisms to protosolar nebula and primordial origins. Here, we review the O2 formation mechanisms from the literature, and provide a comprehensive summary of the current state of knowledge of the sources and origin of cometary O2.

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