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SCITEAS - The Simulation Chamber for Imaging Temporal Evolution of Analogous Samples

 

Introduction

The SCITEAS (Simulation Chamber for Imaging Temporal Evolution of Analogous Samples) facility is an original simulation chamber aiming at studying the temporal evolution of icy cometary analogues under low temperature and low pressure conditions.

A dusty-ice cometary analog sample inside the SCITEAS simulation chamber.

Studying icy surface analogs

The sample consisting of water and/or carbon dioxide ice mixed with minerals and/or organics is placed in the chamber and evolves by sublimation under vacuum or when exposed to a light flux. Two types of measurements can be done directly on the sample in the chamber : its temperature field, and both surface reflectivity and transmittivity in visible and near-infrared wavelengths, using several temperature sensors and a visible to near-infrared hyperspectral imaging system.

Experiments conducted in this facility aims to provide the necessary background to drive and interpret future investigations on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the ESA Rosetta mission. SCITEAS can also simulate Mars surface temperature and pressure conditions, providing essential laboratory data for the interpretation of VIS-NIR remote sensing datasets of the Martian surface.

Technical description

The chamber is 30 cm in diameter and 32 cm high. Ice samples of various sizes can be placed in the sample holder inside this chamber. The sample holder is surrounded by a shroud. Liquid nitrogen (boiling point of -196.15°C) is used as coolant in the shroud and the cooling system guarantees a continuous cooling of the facility. A radiation shield, consisting of a stainless steel plate of 0.3 mm thickness, is placed between the chamber structure and the shroud. A quartz window on top of the sample enables to monitor the sample surface evolution with the hyperspectral imaging system positioned outside the chamber. This system consists of two cameras on top of the SCITEAS chamber: a CCD visible camera, a near-infrared MCT camera, and a monochromator.

The chamber is evacuated by a turbomolecular pump assisted by a second membrane pump, allowing to reach 10-7 mbar in the chamber. The pressure in the chamber is controlled via a valve and monitored via a full pressure range gauge.

A view of our laboratory, including the PHIRE-2 freezer and the SCITEAS simulation chamber.

Space Research & Planetary Sciences Division Web Site