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Rosetta Publications

For all publications related to the Rosetta mission, please include the following acknowledgement:

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its Member States and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.

For papers using Rosetta mission archive data provided by the PSA ( or PDS ( please acknowledge the Principal Investigator(s) as well as the ESA Planetary Science Archive and NASA PDS Planetary Data System.

To refer to this page you can use the following url:

A list of Rosetta publications is maintained at the ADS library by the Project Scientist: ADS Library.

Research articles and reports from the Science journal special issue, Catching a comet, in which the first results from the Rosetta orbiter instruments are reported are available (free access) here.

Research articles and reports from the Science journal special issue on Philae's first look are available (free access) here.

A special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics on Rosetta mission results pre-perihelion was published in November 2015. It is available here.

A special issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society resulting from The ESLAB 50 Symposium - spacecraft at comets from 1P/Halley to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was compiled in Autumn 2016. It is available here.

A second special issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society resulting from the conference Comets: A new vision after Rosetta and Philae was compiled in Spring/Summer 2017. It is available here.

A second special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics on Rosetta mission full comet phase results was published in September 2019. It is available here.

A list of Rosetta-related theses which have been prepared can be found here.

Publication archive

Publication archive

Context. The Rosetta magnetometer RPC-MAG has been exploring the plasma environment of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August 2014. The first months were dominated by low-frequency waves which evolved into more complex features. However, at the end of July 2015, close to perihelion, the magnetometer detected a region that did not contain any magnetic field at all.
Aims. These signatures match the appearance of a diamagnetic cavity as was observed at comet 1P/Halley in 1986. The cavity here is more extended than previously predicted by models and features unusual magnetic field configurations, which need to be explained.
Methods. The onboard magnetometer data were analyzed in detail and used to estimate the outgassing rate. A minimum variance analysis was used to determine boundary normals.
Results. Our analysis of the data acquired by the Rosetta Plasma Consortium instrumentation confirms the existence of a diamagnetic cavity. The size is larger than predicted by simulations, however. One possible explanation are instabilities that are propagating along the cavity boundary and possibly a low magnetic pressure in the solar wind. This conclusion is supported by a change in sign of the Sun-pointing component of the magnetic field. Evidence also indicates that the cavity boundary is moving with variable velocities ranging from 230 − 500 m/s.
Published: 11 March 2016

Published online 11 February 2016

Context. Dust jets (i.e., fuzzy collimated streams of cometary material arising from the nucleus) have been observed in situ on all comets since the Giotto mission flew by comet 1P/Halley in 1986, and yet their formation mechanism remains unknown. Several solutions have been proposed involving either specific properties of the active areas or the local topography to create and focus the gas and dust flows. While the nucleus morphology seems to be responsible for the larger features, high resolution imagery has shown that broad streams are composed of many smaller jets (a few meters wide) that connect directly to the nucleus surface.

Aims. We monitored these jets at high resolution and over several months to understand what the physical processes are that drive their formation and how this affects the surface.

Methods. Using many images of the same areas with different viewing angles, we performed a 3-dimensional reconstruction of collimated jets and linked them precisely to their sources on the nucleus.

Results. We show here observational evidence that the northern hemisphere jets of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko arise from areas with sharp topographic changes and describe the physical processes involved. We propose a model in which active cliffs are the main source of jet-like features and therefore of the regions eroding the fastest on comets. We suggest that this is a common mechanism taking place on all comets.

Published: 11 February 2016
Cometary nuclei consist mostly of dust and water ice. Previous observations have found nuclei to be low-density and highly porous bodies, but have only moderately constrained the range of allowed densities because of the measurement uncertainties. Here we report the precise mass, bulk density, porosity and internal structure of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on the basis of its gravity field. The mass and gravity field are derived from measured spacecraft velocity perturbations at fly-by distances between 10 and 100 kilometres. The gravitational point mass is GM = 666.2 ± 0.2 cubic metres per second squared, giving a mass M = (9,982 ± 3) × 109 kilograms. Together with the current estimate of the volume of the nucleus, the average bulk density of the nucleus is 533 ± 6 kilograms per cubic metre. The nucleus appears to be a low-density, highly porous (72–74 per cent) dusty body, similar to that of comet 9P/Tempel 1. The most likely composition mix has approximately four times more dust than ice by mass and two times more dust than ice by volume. We conclude that the interior of the nucleus is homogeneous and constant in density on a global scale without large voids. The high porosity seems to be an inherent property of the nucleus material.
Published: 04 February 2016
Although water vapour is the main species observed in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and water is the major constituent of cometary nuclei, limited evidence for exposed water-ice regions on the surface of the nucleus has been found so far. The absence of large regions of exposed water ice seems a common finding on the surfaces of many of the comets observed so far. The nucleus of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko appears to be fairly uniformly coated with dark, dehydrated, refractory and organic-rich material. Here we report the identification at infrared wavelengths of water ice on two debris falls in the Imhotep region of the nucleus. The ice has been exposed on the walls of elevated structures and at the base of the walls. A quantitative derivation of the abundance of ice in these regions indicates the presence of millimetre-sized pure water-ice grains, considerably larger than in all previous observations. Although micrometre-sized water-ice grains are the usual result of vapour recondensation in ice-free layers, the occurrence of millimetre-sized grains of pure ice as observed in the Imhotep debris falls is best explained by grain growth by vapour diffusion in ice-rich layers, or by sintering. As a consequence of these processes, the nucleus can develop an extended and complex coating in which the outer dehydrated crust is superimposed on layers enriched in water ice. The stratigraphy observed on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is therefore the result of evolutionary processes affecting the uppermost metres of the nucleus and does not necessarily require a global layering to have occurred at the time of the comet's formation.
Published: 14 January 2016

Aims. We derive for the first time the size-frequency distribution of boulders on a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P), computed from the images taken by the Rosetta/OSIRIS imaging system. We highlight the possible physical processes that lead to these boulder size distributions.

Methods. We used images acquired by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera, NAC, on 5 and 6 August 2014. The scale of these images (2.44−2.03 m/px) is such that boulders ≥7 m can be identified and manually extracted from the datasets with the software ArcGIS. We derived both global and localized size-frequency distributions. The three-pixel sampling detection, coupled with the favorable shadowing of the surface (observation phase angle ranging from 48° to 53°), enables unequivocally detecting boulders scattered all over the illuminated side of 67P.

Results. We identify 3546 boulders larger than 7 m on the imaged surface (36.4 km²), with a global number density of nearly 100/km² and a cumulative size-frequency distribution represented by a power-law with index of -3.6 +0.2/-0.3. The two lobes of 67P appear to have slightly different distributions, with an index of -3.5 +0.2/-0.3 for the main lobe (body) and -4.0 +0.3/-0.2 for the small lobe (head). The steeper distribution of the small lobe might be due to a more pervasive fracturing. The difference of the distribution for the connecting region (neck) is much more significant, with an index value of -2.2 +0.2/-0.2. We propose that the boulder field located in the neck area is the result of blocks falling from the contiguous Hathor cliff.

[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]

Published: 30 October 2015

Context. Here we describe a new model of the dust streams of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that has been developed using the Interplanetary Meteoroid Environment for Exploration (IMEX). This is a new universal model for recently created cometary meteoroid streams in the inner solar system.

Aims. The model can be used to investigate characteristics of cometary trails: here we describe the model and apply it to the trail of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to develop our understanding of the trail and assess the reliability of the model.

Methods. Our IMEX model provides trajectories for a large number of dust particles released from ~400 short-period comets. We use this to generate optical depth profiles of the dust trail of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and compare these to Spitzer observations of the trail of this comet from 2004 and 2006.

Results. We find that our model can match the observed trails if we use very low ejection velocities, a differential size distribution index of α ≈ -3.7, and a dust production rate of 300–500 kg s-1 at perihelion. The trail is dominated by mm-sized particles and can contain a large proportion of dust produced before the most recent apparition. We demonstrate the strength of IMEX in providing time-resolved histories of meteoroid streams. We find that the passage of Mars through the stream in 2062 creates visible gaps. This indicates the utility of this model in providing insight into the dynamical evolution of streams and trails, as well as impact hazard assessment for spacecraft on interplanetary missions.

Published: 30 October 2015
The composition of the neutral gas comas of most comets is dominated by H2O, CO and CO2, typically comprising as much as 95 per cent of the total gas density. In addition, cometary comas have been found to contain a rich array of other molecules, including sulfuric compounds and complex hydrocarbons. Molecular oxygen (O2), however, despite its detection on other icy bodies such as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, has remained undetected in cometary comas. Here we report in situ measurement of O2 in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, with local abundances ranging from one per cent to ten per cent relative to H2O and with a mean value of 3.80 ± 0.85 per cent. Our observations indicate that the O2/H2O ratio is isotropic in the coma and does not change systematically with heliocentric distance. This suggests that primordial O2 was incorporated into the nucleus during the comet's formation, which is unexpected given the low upper limits from remote sensing observations. Current Solar System formation models do not predict conditions that would allow this to occur.
Published: 29 October 2015

First published online 28 September 2015

The factors shaping cometary nuclei are still largely unknown, but could be the result of concurrent effects of evolutionary and primordial processes. The peculiar bilobed shape of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko may be the result of the fusion of two objects that were once separate or the result of a localized excavation by outgassing at the interface between the two lobes. Here we report that the comet's major lobe is enveloped by a nearly continuous set of strata, up to 650 metres thick, which are independent of an analogous stratified envelope on the minor lobe. Gravity vectors computed for the two lobes separately are closer to perpendicular to the strata than those calculated for the entire nucleus and adjacent to the neck separating the two lobes. Therefore comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is an accreted body of two distinct objects with 'onion-like' stratification, which formed before they merged. We conclude that gentle, low-velocity collisions occurred between two fully formed kilometre-sized cometesimals in the early stages of the Solar System. The notable structural similarities between the two lobes of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko indicate that the early-forming cometesimals experienced similar primordial stratified accretion, even though they formed independently.
Published: 29 September 2015
Comets have been considered to be representative of icy planetesimals that may have contributed a significant fraction of the volatile inventory of the terrestrial planets. For example, comets must have brought some water to Earth. However, the magnitude of their contribution is still debated. We report the detection of argon and its relation to the water abundance in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by in situ measurement of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) mass spectrometer aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. Despite the very low intensity of the signal, argon is clearly identified by the exact determination of the mass of the isotope 36Ar and by the 36Ar/38Ar ratio. Because of time variability and spatial heterogeneity of the coma, only a range of the relative abundance of argon to water can be given. Nevertheless, this range confirms that comets of the type 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko cannot be the major source of Earth's major volatiles.
Published: 26 September 2015
Observations of cometary nuclei have revealed a very limited amount of surface water ice, which is insufficient to explain the observed water outgassing. This was clearly demonstrated on comet 9P/Tempel 1, where the dust jets (driven by volatiles) were only partially correlated with the exposed ice regions. The observations of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko have revealed that activity has a diurnal variation in intensity arising from changing insolation conditions. It was previously concluded that water vapour was generated in ice-rich subsurface layers with a transport mechanism linked to solar illumination, but that has not hitherto been observed. Periodic condensations of water vapour very close to, or on, the surface were suggested to explain short-lived outbursts seen near sunrise on comet 9P/Tempel 1. Here we report observations of water ice on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, appearing and disappearing in a cyclic pattern that follows local illumination conditions, providing a source of localized activity. This water cycle appears to be an important process in the evolution of the comet, leading to cyclical modification of the relative abundance of water ice on its surface.
Published: 25 September 2015
The Philae lander, part of the Rosetta mission to investigate comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was delivered to the cometary surface in November 2014. Here we report the precise circumstances of the multiple landings of Philae, including the bouncing trajectory and rebound parameters, based on engineering data in conjunction with operational instrument data. These data also provide information on the mechanical properties (strength and layering) of the comet surface. The first touchdown site, Agilkia, appears to have a granular soft surface (with a compressive strength of 1 kilopascal) at least ~20 cm thick, possibly on top of a more rigid layer. The final landing site, Abydos, has a hard surface.
Published: 01 August 2015
The Philae lander provides a unique opportunity to investigate the internal structure of a comet nucleus, providing information about its formation and evolution in the early solar system. We present Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) measurements of the interior of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. From the propagation time and form of the signals, the upper part of the "head" of 67P is fairly homogeneous on a spatial scale of tens of meters. CONSERT also reduced the size of the uncertainty of Philae's final landing site down to approximately 21 by 34 square meters. The average permittivity is about 1.27, suggesting that this region has a volumetric dust/ice ratio of 0.4 to 2.6 and a porosity of 75 to 85%. The dust component may be comparable to that of carbonaceous chondrites.
Published: 01 August 2015

Published online 14 April 2015 in Science Express

Knowledge of the magnetization of planetary bodies constrains their origin and evolution, as well as the conditions in the solar nebular at that time. Based on magnetic field measurements during the descent and subsequent multiple touchdown of the Rosetta lander Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we show that no global magnetic field was detected within the limitations of analysis. The ROMAP suite of sensors measured an upper magnetic field magnitude of less than 2 nT at the cometary surface at multiple locations with the upper specific magnetic moment being < 3.1·10-5 Am2/kg for meter-size homogeneous magnetized boulders. The maximum dipole moment of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is 1.6·108 Am2. We conclude that on the meter-scale, magnetic alignment in the pre-planetary nebula is of minor importance.
Published: 01 August 2015
Comets harbor the most pristine material in our solar system in the form of ice, dust, silicates, and refractory organic material with some interstellar heritage. The evolved gas analyzer Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) experiment aboard Rosetta's Philae lander was designed for in situ analysis of organic molecules on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Twenty-five minutes after Philae's initial comet touchdown, the COSAC mass spectrometer took a spectrum in sniffing mode, which displayed a suite of 16 organic compounds, including many nitrogen-bearing species but no sulfur-bearing species, and four compounds – methyl isocyanate, acetone, propionaldehyde, and acetamide – that had not previously been reported in comets.
Published: 01 August 2015
The surface and subsurface of comets preserve material from the formation of the solar system. The properties of cometary material thus provide insight into the physical and chemical conditions during their formation. We present mass spectra taken by the Ptolemy instrument 20 minutes after the initial touchdown of the Philae lander on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Regular mass distributions indicate the presence of a sequence of compounds with additional -CH2- and -O- groups (mass/charge ratios 14 and 16, respectively). Similarities with the detected coma species of comet Halley suggest the presence of a radiation-induced polymer at the surface. Ptolemy measurements also indicate an apparent absence of aromatic compounds such as benzene, a lack of sulfur-bearing species, and very low concentrations of nitrogenous material.
Published: 01 August 2015
The structure and composition of cometary constituents, down to their microscopic scale, are critical witnesses of the processes and ingredients that drove the formation and evolution of planetary bodies toward their present diversity. On board Rosetta's lander Philae, the Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser (CIVA) experiment took a series of images to characterize the surface materials surrounding the lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Images were collected twice: just after touchdown, and after Philae finally came to rest, where it acquired a full panorama. These images reveal a fractured surface with complex structure and a variety of grain scales and albedos, possibly constituting pristine cometary material.
Published: 01 August 2015
Thermal and mechanical material properties determine comet evolution and even solar system formation because comets are considered remnant volatile-rich planetesimals. Using data from the Multipurpose Sensors for Surface and Sub-Surface Science (MUPUS) instrument package gathered at the Philae landing site Abydos on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we found the diurnal temperature to vary between 90 and 130 K. The surface emissivity was 0.97, and the local thermal inertia was 85 ± 35 J m-2 K-1s-1/2. The MUPUS thermal probe did not fully penetrate the near-surface layers, suggesting a local resistance of the ground to penetration of >4 megapascals, equivalent to >2 megapascal uniaxial compressive strength. A sintered near-surface microporous dust-ice layer with a porosity of 30 to 65% is consistent with the data.
Published: 01 August 2015
The structure of the upper layer of a comet is a product of its surface activity. The Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) on board Philae acquired close-range images of the Agilkia site during its descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These images reveal a photometrically uniform surface covered by regolith composed of debris and blocks ranging in size from centimeters to 5 meters. At the highest resolution of 1 centimeter per pixel, the surface appears granular, with no apparent deposits of unresolved sand-sized particles. The thickness of the regolith varies across the imaged field from 0 to 1 to 2 meters. The presence of aeolian-like features resembling wind tails hints at regolith mobilization and erosion processes. Modeling suggests that abrasion driven by airfall-induced particle "splashing" is responsible for the observed formations.
Published: 01 August 2015

Rosetta is ESA's comet-chasing mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Launched on 2 March 2004, the spacecraft travelled for 10 years and required three gravity-assist flybys at Earth and one at Mars before homing in on its target.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the Sun and its planets formed. By studying the gas, dust and structure of the nucleus and organic materials associated with the comet, via both remote and in situ observations, the Rosetta mission could be the key to unlocking the history and evolution of our Solar System.

Table of contents:

  • Europe's comet-chaser
  • The long trek
  • A human endeavour
  • Rendezvous with a comet
  • Pull-out poster: Rosetta mission selfie
  • Landing on a comet
  • The Rosetta orbiter
  • The Philae lander
  • Getting to know the comet
  • An evolving story
  • An international enterprise
  • Join the adventure

Published: 01 August 2015
Introduction to the 31 July 2015 special issue of the journal Science, "Philae's First Days on the Comet". The issue presents a first set of results acquired aboard Philae in the first 63 hours after it separated from Rosetta, descended, initially touched down on the comet at the site known as Agilkia, and finally came to rest at the site known as Abydos.
Published: 01 August 2015
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