Major award for the 'Father of Rosetta'
8 October 2002The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), the largest division of the American Astronomical Society, has announced that its prestigious Gerard P. Kuiper Prize has been awarded to Rosetta Interdisciplinary Scientist, Dr Eberhard Grün.
The Kuiper Prize - the highest professional honour awarded by the DPS - is presented annually to recognise scientists whose achievements have most advanced our understanding of the Solar System.
Perhaps more than anyone, Dr Grün may be called the 'Father of Rosetta', since it was he who suggested the name for ESA's comet chasing mission back in 1987. Since then, he has been intimately involved in the design and planning of the first mission to orbit and soft-land on a comet.
"Our group conducted six years of comet simulations at DLR, which involved placing a dirty ice ball in a vacuum chamber and simulating the processes that take place on a comet's surface," said Dr Grün. "We ran quite a number of experiments and out of this effort came Germany's interest in developing a lander. We used drills, dust collectors and all sorts of other instruments that have now been placed on the Rosetta Lander."
"We always believed that a fly-around of a comet was very useful, but it was particularly important to touch down on the nucleus and investigate it with a long-term lander," he explained.
Today, Dr Grün is an Interdisciplinary Scientist for the Rosetta mission, and a Co-Investigator, not only for the Rosetta Lander, but also for the COSIMA, CONSERT and Radio Science Investigation experiments on the Orbiter.
He is particularly recognised for his discovery of interstellar grains passing through the Solar System, the discovery of Jupiter dust streams in interplanetary space, and major insights into the science of micrometeorites in space through the use of a variety of study techniques.
"Through its wide distribution in the Solar System dust can tell stories about its parents (comets, asteroids, satellites, and even interstellar matter) which otherwise are not easily readable," he said.
"Dust is a messenger that gives us information on the nature of distant objects and the processes taking place in them. Comets are the building blocks from which the planets formed and dust from comets tells us about conditions in the early Solar System."
"By comparing cometary material with interstellar material that arrives from far away, we will discover whether comets are pristine or significantly modified and learn about the composition of the solar nebula from which the planets formed."
Grün will receive the Kuiper Prize on Wednesday, 9 October, at the Jefferson Convention Center in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of this year's DPS Meeting. He will then give a lecture entitled 'Dust Astronomy'.
Grün received his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in 1970 and continued there to become lecturer. He is senior scientist and leader of the cosmic dust group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik. He is also currently a researcher at the University of Hawaii. He has been Principal Investigator for dust experiments aboard Helios 1, Helios 2, Galileo, Ulysses, and Cassini, provided a dust sensor for Giotto, and is involved in the Nozomi and Stardust missions.
In 2000, he was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a Foreign Associate of the Royal Astronomical Society. Minor Planet 1981 EY20 was designated 4240 Grün in honour of his discoveries about interplanetary dust.