BepiColumbo SIXS

Project: Externally funded research

Project Details


SIXS, the Solar Intensity X-ray and particle Spectrometer on the BepiColombo mission to Mercury is led by PI Juhani Huovelin at the University of Helsinki. Manuel Grande, of Aberystwyth UK is the CoPI. The main UK contribution, aside from science knowledge and experience with the X-ray spectrometers on ESA SMART-1 and ISRO Chandrayaan-1 to the Moon, for which Grande was PI, was the provision of a single integrated circuit (produced at RAL) to digitise and relay the outputs of both the X-ray and particle sensors on SIXS, resulting in an extremely compact and capable instrument.
Our experience with Lunar X-ray spectroscopy made clear that in order to obtain accurate quantification of the surface of a planetary body using the X-ray technique, as will be provided by the MIXS Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer, led by Emma Bunce at Leicester UK, extremely accurate characterisation of the input solar flux is essential. In addition, the importance of precipitating energetic particles striking the surface of Mercury and producing Particle Induced X-ray Emission, make a particle characterisation essential. Both these key measurements are provided by SIXS. In Finnish, MIXS/SIXS is a joke, meaning approximately why/because. Grande is a Co-I on MIXS, and also SERENA and the Japanese MMO.
As well as being critical for the science of MIXS, the energetic particle and solar X-ray detectors on SIXS will provide a useful space weather tool in their own right. The products are essentially the same as the GOES parameters presented in panels 4 and 5 of the NOAA Space Weather Centre summary at ( with the key difference that they come from the inner Solar System. Although they clearly do not always align with propagation to Earth, when the orbits align they could provide a new tool for early prediction of terrestrial space weather effects (assuming a near real time stream is available). Perhaps more importantly, even if delayed, or not directly on the connecting field lines, this will be a key measurement in better understanding propagation effects from the Sun to Earth.
Thus the provision of a site which provides early access to these indices will be a key both for better understanding the results of MIXS (including selecting observations of greatest interest where the solar flux is strongest), but in enabling progress in space weather prediction. We would aim to make this data freely available (although it is possible that initially password access might be appropriate). We will work with colleagues both in Finland and at Leicester who are enthusiastic about the concept. Eventually they may form part of a wider ESA funded facility which is led by a Finnish company. We will also organise a workshop at an appropriate moment to publicise this facility to potential users and receive their feedback.
The target for implementation is the first Venus flyby (15 October 2020) although this is slightly beyond the timescale proposed here. The results would be informed by data from the commissioning phase, currently expected in early 2019. We therefore would suggest use of a programmer/ PDRA for 3 months during the second year. Rose Cooper, a PhD student at Aberystwyth who is completing a thesis on the use of MIXS/SIXS to investigate the Mercury exosphere on that timescale might be an appropriate candidate.
The launch of BepiColombo is an outstanding opportunity for outreach, and the intension in Aberystwyth and Wales is to fully exploit this.
Effective start/end date01 Apr 201831 Oct 2021


  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/S002677/1): £40,896.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Investigating Mercury’s environment with the two-spacecraft BepiColombo mission

    Milillo, A., Fujimoto, M., Murakami, G., Benkhoff, J., Zender, J., Aizawa, S., Dósa, M., Griton, L., Heyner, D., Ho, G. C., Imber, S. M., Jia, X., Karlsson, T., Killen, R. M., Laurenza, M., Lindsay, S., McKenna-Lawlor, S., Mura, A., Raines, J. M., Rothery, D. A., & 59 othersAndré, N., Baumjohann, W., Berezhnoy, A., Bourdin, P. A., Bunce, E., Califano, F., Deca, J., de la Fuente, S., Dong, C., Grava, C., Fatemi, S., Henri, P., Ivanovski, S. L., Jackson, B. V., James, M., Kallio, E., Kasaba, Y., Kilpua, E., Kobayashi, M., Langlais, B., Leblanc, F., Lhotka, C., Mangano, V., Martindale, A., Massetti, S., Masters, A., Morooka, M., Narita, Y., Oliveira, J. S., Odstrcil, D., Orsini, S., Pelizzo, M. G., Plainaki, C., Plaschke, F., Sahraoui, F., Seki, K., Slavin, J. A., Vainio, R., Wurz, P., Barabash, S., Carr, C. M., Delcourt, D., Glassmeier, K. H., Grande, M., Hirahara, M., Huovelin, J., Korablev, O., Kojima, H., Lichtenegger, H., Livi, S. A., Matsuoka, A., Moissl, R., Moncuquet, M., Muinonen, K., Quémerais, E., Saito, Y., Yagitani, S., Yoshikawa, I. & Wahlund, J. E., 01 Aug 2020, In: Space Science Reviews. 216, 5, 78 p., 93.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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  • Rationale for BepiColombo Studies of Mercury’s Surface and Composition

    Rothery, D. A., Massironi, M., Alemanno, G., Barraud, O., Besse, S., Bott, N., Brunetto, R., Bunce, E., Byrne, P., Capaccioni, F., Capria, M. T., Carli, C., Charlier, B., Cornet, T., Cremonese, G., D’Amore, M., De Sanctis, M. C., Doressoundiram, A., Ferranti, L., Filacchione, G., & 46 othersGalluzzi, V., Giacomini, L., Grande, M., Guzzetta, L. G., Helbert, J., Heyner, D., Hiesinger, H., Hussmann, H., Hyodo, R., Kohout, T., Kozyrev, A., Litvak, M., Lucchetti, A., Malakhov, A., Malliband, C., Mancinelli, P., Martikainen, J., Martindale, A., Maturilli, A., Milillo, A., Mitrofanov, I., Mokrousov, M., Morlok, A., Muinonen, K., Namur, O., Owens, A., Nittler, L. R., Oliveira, J. S., Palumbo, P., Pajola, M., Pegg, D. L., Penttilä, A., Politi, R., Quarati, F., Re, C., Sanin, A., Schulz, R., Stangarone, C., Stojic, A., Tretiyakov, V., Väisänen, T., Varatharajan, I., Weber, I., Wright, J., Wurz, P. & Zambon, F., 02 Jun 2020, In: Space Science Reviews. 216, 4, 46 p., 66.

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  • Solar intensity X-ray and particle spectrometer SIXS: instrument design and first results

    Huovelin, J., Vainio, R., Kilpua, E., Lehtolainen, A., Korpela, S., Esko, E., Muinonen, K., Bunce, E., Martindale, A., Grande, M., Andersson, H., Nenonen, S., Lehti, J., Schmidt, W., Genzer, M., Vihavainen, T., Saari, J., Peltonen, J., Valtonen, E., Talvioja, M., & 8 othersPortin, P., Narendranath, S., Jarvinen, R., Okada, T., Milillo, A., Laurenza, M., Heino, E. & Oleynik, P., 01 Aug 2020, In: Space Science Reviews. 216, 5, 42 p., 94.

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  • The BepiColombo Mercury Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer: Science Goals, Instrument Performance and Operations

    Bunce, E. J., Martindale, A., Lindsay, S., Muinonen, K., Rothery, D. A., Pearson, J., McDonnell, I., Thomas, C., Thornhill, J., Tikkanen, T., Feldman, C., Huovelin, J., Korpela, S., Esko, E., Lehtolainen, A., Treis, J., Majewski, P., Hilchenbach, M., Väisänen, T., Luttinen, A., & 51 othersKohout, T., Penttilä, A., Bridges, J., Joy, K. H., Alcacera-Gil, M. A., Alibert, G., Anand, M., Bannister, N., Barcelo-Garcia, C., Bicknell, C., Blake, O., Bland, P., Butcher, G., Cheney, A., Christensen, U., Crawford, T., Crawford, I. A., Dennerl, K., Dougherty, M., Drumm, P., Fairbend, R., Genzer, M., Grande, M., Hall, G. P., Hodnett, R., Houghton, P., Imber, S., Kallio, E., Lara, M. L., Balado Margeli, A., Mas-Hesse, M. J., Maurice, S., Milan, S., Millington-Hotze, P., Nenonen, S., Nittler, L., Okada, T., Ormö, J., Perez-Mercader, J., Poyner, R., Robert, E., Ross, D., Pajas-Sanz, M., Schyns, E., Seguy, J., Strüder, L., Vaudon, N., Viceira-Martín, J., Williams, H., Willingale, D. & Yeoman, T., 03 Nov 2020, In: Space Science Reviews. 216, 8, 38 p., 126.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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    113 Downloads (Pure)