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Above: False-color image showing the smooth Hapi region connecting the head and body of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Differences in reflectivity have been enhanced in this image to emphasize the blueish color of the Hapi region. By studying the reflectivity, clues to the local composition of the comet are revealed. Here, the blue coloring might point to the presence of frozen water ice at or just below the dusty surface. The data used to create this image were acquired on August 21, 2014, when Rosetta was 70 km from the comet. CREDIT: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team. Above: False-color image showing the smooth Hapi region connecting the head and body of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Differences in reflectivity have been enhanced in this image to emphasize the blueish color of the Hapi region. By studying the reflectivity, clues to the local composition of the comet are revealed. Here, the blue coloring might point to the presence of frozen water ice at or just below the dusty surface. The data used to create this image were acquired on August 21, 2014, when Rosetta was 70 km from the comet. CREDIT: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team.

Submillimeter-Wave Advanced Technologies

Researchers in submillimeter-wave advanced technology at JPL specialize in developing and implementing submillimeter-wave and terahertz remotesensing technologies for a variety of applications.

The primary focus is to develop components and technologies to enable spaceborne instruments based on high-resolution heterodyne spectrometers for Earth remote-sensing missions, planetary missions, and astrophysics observatories. JPL’s rich and varied technical expertise is also utilized for ground-based applications that are a spin-off from the heterodyne receiver technologies. Heterodyne technology allows one to map/detect unique molecular signatures with very high spectral resolution over a wide range of wavelengths. Next-generation technology development will allow us to build and deploy compact submillimeter-wave receivers that are ideally suited for planetary missions.

Instruments for detection of water molecules is a long-standing goal of NASA planetary missions. Currently, MDL-produced devices are on board the MIRO (Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter). MIRO first detected water vapor from the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in June 2014, when Rosetta was 350,000 km from the comet nucleus. At that distance, the nucleus was unresolved and the entire coma filled MIRO’s field of view. Now that Rosetta has rendezvoused with the comet, MIRO has begun observations to map the nucleus and coma in great detail. More recently, the MIRO instrument has detected an increase in the rate of water vapor coming from the comet, confirming that the water vapor rate on the comet is not constant. MIRO is producing scientific results that will improve our understanding of chemical and physical processes on planetary bodies.

Advanced devices are being designed and fabricated at the MDL that will allow lower-mass and lower-power heterodyne receivers with greater sensitivities to hunt for water in the universe.

Current Projects