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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 (https://archives.esac.esa.int/psa/) or PDS (https://pds.nasa.gov) 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: https://sci.esa.int/rosetta-publications.

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

The Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) experiment onboard the Rosetta spacecraft currently orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has yielded unprecedented views of a comet's nucleus. We present here the first ever observations of meter-scale fractures on the surface of a comet. Some of these fractures form polygonal networks. We present an initial assessment of their morphology, topology, and regional distribution. Fractures are ubiquitous on the surface of the comet's nucleus. Furthermore, they occur in various settings and show different topologies suggesting numerous formation mechanisms, which include thermal insulation weathering, orbital-induced stresses, and possibly seasonal thermal contraction. However, we conclude that thermal insolation weathering is responsible for creating most of the observed fractures based on their morphology and setting in addition to thermal models that indicate diurnal temperature ranges exceeding 200 K and thermal gradients of ~15 K/min at perihelion are possible. Finally, we suggest that fractures could be a facilitator in surface evolution and long-term erosion.
Published: 21 August 2015
Pits have been observed on many cometary nuclei mapped by spacecraft. It has been argued that cometary pits are a signature of endogenic activity, rather than impact craters such as those on planetary and asteroid surfaces. Impact experiments and models cannot reproduce the shapes of most of the observed cometary pits, and the predicted collision rates imply that few of the pits are related to impacts. Alternative mechanisms like explosive activity have been suggested, but the driving process remains unknown. Here we report that pits on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko are active, and probably created by a sinkhole process, possibly accompanied by outbursts. We argue that after formation, pits expand slowly in diameter, owing to sublimation-driven retreat of the walls. Therefore, pits characterize how eroded the surface is: a fresh cometary surface will have a ragged structure with many pits, while an evolved surface will look smoother. The size and spatial distribution of pits imply that large heterogeneities exist in the physical, structural or compositional properties of the first few hundred metres below the current nucleus surface.
Published: 03 July 2015
Accepted for publication: 11 May 2015

Context. The European Space Agency Rosetta mission reached and started escorting its main target, the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at the beginning of August 2014. Within the context of solar system small bodies, satellite searches from approaching spacecraft were extensively used in the past to study the nature of the visited bodies and their collisional environment.
Aims. During the approaching phase to the comet in July 2014, the OSIRIS instrument onboard Rosetta performed a campaign aimed at detecting objects in the vicinity of the comet nucleus and at measuring these objects' possible bound orbits. In addition to the scientific purpose, the search also focused on spacecraft security to avoid hazardous material in the comet's environment.
Methods. Images in the red spectral domain were acquired with the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera, when the spacecraft was at a distance between 5785 km and 5463 km to the comet, following an observational strategy tailored to maximize the scientific outcome. From the acquired images, sources were extracted and displayed to search for plausible displacements of all sources from image to image. After stars were identified, the remaining sources were thoroughly analyzed. To place constraints on the expected displacements of a potential satellite, we performed Monte Carlo simulations on the apparent motion of potential satellites within the Hill sphere.
Results. We found no unambiguous detections of objects larger than ~6 m within ~20 km and larger than ~1 m between ~20 km and ~110 km from the nucleus, using images with an exposure time of 0.14 s and 1.36 s, respectively. Our conclusions are consistent with independent works on dust grains in the comet coma and on boulders counting on the nucleus surface.
--- Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations ---

Published: 12 May 2015
Accepted for publication: 9 April 2015.

Context. We investigate the dust coma within the Hill sphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Aims. We aim to determine osculating orbital elements for individual distinguishable but unresolved slow-moving grains in the vicinity of the nucleus. In addition, we perform photometry and constrain grain sizes.
Methods. We performed astrometry and photometry using images acquired by the OSIRIS Wide Angle Camera on the European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta. Based on these measurements, we employed standard orbit determination and orbit improvement techniques.
Results. Orbital elements and effective diameters of four grains were constrained, but we were unable to uniquely determine them. Two of the grains have light curves that indicate grain rotation.
Conclusions. The four grains have diameters nominally in the range 0.14–0.50 m. For three of the grains, we found elliptic orbits, which is consistent with a cloud of bound particles around the nucleus. However, hyperbolic escape trajectories cannot be excluded for any of the grains, and for one grain this is the only known option. One grain may have originated from the surface shortly before observation. These results have possible implications for the understanding of the dispersal of the cloud of bound debris around comet nuclei, as well as for understanding the ejection of large grains far from the Sun.

Published: 10 April 2015
Accepted for publication: 2 May 2015.

The Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) has been observing the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko almost continuously since June 2014 at wavelengths near 0.53 mm. We present here a map of the water column density in the inner coma (within 3 km from nucleus center) when the comet was at 3.4 AU from the Sun. Based on the analysis of the H216O and H218O (110-101) lines, we find that the column density can vary by two orders of magnitude in this region. The highest column density is observed in a narrow region on the dayside, close to the neck and north pole rotation axis of the nucleus, while the lowest column density is seen against the nightside of the nucleus where outgassing seems to be very low. We estimate that the outgassing pattern can be represented by a Gaussian distribution in a solid angle with FWHM ≈ 80°

Published: 03 May 2015

Aims. The Alice far-ultraviolet spectrograph onboard Rosetta is designed to observe emissions from various atomic and molecular species from within the coma of comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko and to determine their spatial distribution and evolution with time and heliocentric distance.

Methods. Following orbit insertion in August 2014, Alice made observations of the inner coma above the limbs of the nucleus of the comet from cometocentric distances varying between 10 and 80 km. Depending on the position and orientation of the slit relative to the nucleus, emissions of atomic hydrogen and oxygen were initially detected. These emissions are spatially localized close to the nucleus and spatially variable with a strong enhancement above the comet's neck at northern latitudes. Weaker emission from atomic carbon and CO were subsequently detected.

Results. Analysis of the relative line intensities suggests photoelectron impact dissociation of H2O vapor as the source of the observed HI and OI emissions. The electrons are produced by photoionization of H2O. The observed CI emissions are also attributed to electron impact dissociation, of CO2, and their relative brightness to HI reflects the variation of CO2 to H2O column abundance in the coma.

Published: 03 June 2015
Accepted for publication: 15 May 2015

Since OSIRIS started acquiring high-resolution observations of the surface of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, over one hundred meter-sized bright spots have been identified in numerous types of geomorphologic regions, but mostly located in areas receiving low insolation. The bright spots are either clustered, in debris fields close to decameter-high cliffs, or isolated without structural relation to the surrounding terrain. They can be up to ten times brighter than the average surface of the comet at visible wavelengths and display a significantly bluer spectrum. They do not exhibit significant changes over a period of a few weeks. All these observations are consistent with exposure of water ice at the surface of boulders produced by dislocation of the weakly consolidated layers that cover large areas of the nucleus. Laboratory experiments show that under simulated comet surface conditions, analog samples acquire a vertical stratification with an uppermost porous mantle of refractory dust overlaying a layer of hard ice formed by recondensation or sintering under the insulating dust mantle. The evolution of the visible spectrophotometric properties of samples during sublimation is consistent with the contrasts of brightness and color seen at the surface of the nucleus. Clustered bright spots are formed by the collapse of overhangs that is triggered by mass wasting of deeper layers. Isolated spots might be the result of the emission of boulders at low velocity that are redepositioned in other regions.

Published: 16 May 2015
Accepted for publication: 12 May 2015

Context. Since August 2014, the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) onboard the Rosetta spacecraft has acquired high spatial resolution images of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, down to the decimeter scale. This paper focuses on the Imhotep region, located on the largest lobe of the nucleus, near the equator.
Aims. We map, inventory, and describe the geomorphology of the Imhotep region. We propose and discuss some processes to explain the formation and ongoing evolution of this region.
Methods. We used OSIRIS NAC images, gravitational heights and slopes, and digital terrain models to map and measure the morphologies of Imhotep.
Results. The Imhotep region presents a wide variety of terrains and morphologies: smooth and rocky terrains, bright areas, linear features, roundish features, and boulders. Gravity processes such as mass wasting and collapse play a significant role in the geomorphological evolution of this region. Cometary processes initiate erosion and are responsible for the formation of degassing conduits that are revealed by elevated roundish features on the surface. We also propose a scenario for the formation and evolution of the Imhotep region; this implies the presence of large primordial voids inside the nucleus, resulting from its formation process.

Published: 13 May 2015
Published online 19 March 2015.

Molecular nitrogen (N2) is thought to have been the most abundant form of nitrogen in the protosolar nebula. It is the main N-bearing molecule in the atmospheres of Pluto and Triton, and probably the main nitrogen reservoir from which the giant planets formed. Yet in comets, often considered as the most primitive bodies in the solar system, N2 has not been detected. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of N2 in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko made by the ROSINA mass spectrometer aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. A N2/CO ratio of (5.70 ± 0.66) × 10-3 (SEM) corresponds to depletion by a factor of ~25.4 ± 8.9 compared to the protosolar value. This depletion suggests that cometary grains formed at low temperature conditions below ~30 K.

Published: 19 March 2015
In the advent of the Rosetta arrival at the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, we present a global 3D hybrid simulation model of the cometary plasma interaction which resolves the innermost coma sufficiently. As Rosetta will only provide local information, global simulations are required to put these local observations into a wider global perspective. In the selected scenario close to the perihelion, the gas production of the comet is large enough to trigger a cometary bow shock and a small diamagnetic cavity around the nucleus. The simulation reveals the presence of a cometary ionopause and a recombination layer, which is in general agreement with single-fluid MHD simulations. However, we found an asymmetry in the interaction region caused by the pick-up of the cometary ions, which effects all known boundaries. In addition, we study the velocity distributions of the ions and find the presence of three distinct populations of cometary ions at the inner boundaries. The bifurcation created in the ion energy spectrum might be observable by the instruments onboard the Rosetta spacecraft.
Published: 31 January 2015
Published online 26 January 2015

Comets are composed of dust and frozen gases. The ices are mixed with the refractory material either as an icy conglomerate, or as an aggregate of pre-solar grains (grains that existed prior to the formation of the Solar System), mantled by an ice layer. The presence of water-ice grains in periodic comets is now well established. Modelling of infrared spectra obtained about ten kilometres from the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 suggests that larger dust particles are being physically decoupled from fine-grained water-ice particles that may be aggregates, which supports the icy-conglomerate model. It is known that comets build up crusts of dust that are subsequently shed as they approach perihelion. Micrometre-sized interplanetary dust particles collected in the Earth's stratosphere and certain micrometeorites are assumed to be of cometary origin. Here we report that grains collected from the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko come from a dusty crust that quenches the material outflow activity at the comet surface. The larger grains (exceeding 50 micrometres across) are fluffy (with porosity over 50 per cent), and many shattered when collected on the target plate, suggesting that they are agglomerates of entities in the size range of interplanetary dust particles. Their surfaces are generally rich in sodium, which explains the high sodium abundance in cometary meteoroids. The particles collected to date therefore probably represent parent material of interplanetary dust particles. This argues against comet dust being composed of a silicate core mantled by organic refractory material and then by a mixture of water-dominated ices. At its previous recurrence (orbital period 6.5 years), the comet's dust production doubled when it was between 2.7 and 2.5 astronomical units from the Sun, indicating that this was when the nucleus shed its mantle.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]

Published: 26 January 2015
Published online 10 December 2014

The provenance of water and organic compounds on the Earth and other terrestrial planets has been discussed for a long time without reaching a consensus. One of the best means to distinguish between different scenarios is by determining the D/H ratios in the reservoirs for comets and the Earth's oceans. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of the D/H ratio in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the ROSINA mass spectrometer aboard ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, which is found to be (5.3 ± 0.7) × 10−4, that is, ~3 times the terrestrial value. Previous cometary measurements and our new finding suggest a wide range of D/H ratios in the water within Jupiter family objects and preclude the idea that this reservoir is solely composed of Earth ocean-like water.

Published: 23 January 2015
Critical measurements for understanding accretion and the dust/gas ratio in the solar nebula, where planets were forming 4.5 billion years ago, are being obtained by the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) experiment on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Between 3.6 and 3.4 astronomical units inbound, GIADA and OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) detected 35 outflowing grains of mass 10-10 to 10-7 kilograms, and 48 grains of mass 10-5 to 10-2 kilograms, respectively. Combined with gas data from the MIRO (Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter) and ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) instruments, we find a dust/gas mass ratio of 4 ± 2 averaged over the sunlit nucleus surface. A cloud of larger grains also encircles the nucleus in bound orbits from the previous perihelion. The largest orbiting clumps are meter-sized, confirming the dust/gas ratio of 3 inferred at perihelion from models of dust comae and trails.
Published: 23 January 2015
Images from the OSIRIS scientific imaging system onboard Rosetta show that the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko consists of two lobes connected by a short neck. The nucleus has a bulk density less than half that of water. Activity at a distance from the Sun of >3 astronomical units is predominantly from the neck, where jets have been seen consistently. The nucleus rotates about the principal axis of momentum. The surface morphology suggests that the removal of larger volumes of material, possibly via explosive release of subsurface pressure or via creation of overhangs by sublimation, may be a major mass loss process. The shape raises the question of whether the two lobes represent a contact binary formed 4.5 billion years ago, or a single body where a gap has evolved via mass loss.
Published: 23 January 2015
Images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko acquired by the OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) imaging system onboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft at scales of better than 0.8 meter per pixel show a wide variety of different structures and textures. The data show the importance of airfall, surface dust transport, mass wasting, and insolation weathering for cometary surface evolution, and they offer some support for subsurface fluidization models and mass loss through the ejection of large chunks of material.
Published: 23 January 2015
Heat transport and ice sublimation in comets are interrelated processes reflecting properties acquired at the time of formation and during subsequent evolution. The Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) acquired maps of the subsurface temperature of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at 1.6 mm and 0.5 mm wavelengths, and spectra of water vapor. The total H2O production rate varied from 0.3 kg s-1 in early June 2014 to 1.2 kg s-1 in late August and showed periodic variations related to nucleus rotation and shape. Water outgassing was localized to the "neck" region of the comet. Subsurface temperatures showed seasonal and diurnal variations, which indicated that the submillimeter radiation originated at depths comparable to the diurnal thermal skin depth. A low thermal inertia (~10 to 50 J K-1 m-2 s-0.5), consistent with a thermally insulating powdered surface, is inferred.
Published: 23 January 2015
The VIRTIS (Visible, Infrared and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument on board the Rosetta spacecraft has provided evidence of carbon-bearing compounds on the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The very low reflectance of the nucleus (normal albedo of 0.060 ± 0.003 at 0.55 micrometers), the spectral slopes in visible and infrared ranges (5 to 25 and 1.5 to 5% kÅ-1), and the broad absorption feature in the 2.9-to-3.6–micrometer range present across the entire illuminated surface are compatible with opaque minerals associated with nonvolatile organic macromolecular materials: a complex mixture of various types of carbon-hydrogen and/or oxygen-hydrogen chemical groups, with little contribution of nitrogen-hydrogen groups. In active areas, the changes in spectral slope and absorption feature width may suggest small amounts of water-ice. However, no ice-rich patches are observed, indicating a generally dehydrated nature for the surface currently illuminated by the Sun.
Published: 23 January 2015
The Rosetta mission shall accompany comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a heliocentric distance of >3.6 astronomical units through perihelion passage at 1.25 astronomical units, spanning low and maximum activity levels. Initially, the solar wind permeates the thin comet atmosphere formed from sublimation, until the size and plasma pressure of the ionized atmosphere define its boundaries: A magnetosphere is born. Using the Rosetta Plasma Consortium ion composition analyzer, we trace the evolution from the first detection of water ions to when the atmosphere begins repelling the solar wind (~3.3 astronomical units), and we report the spatial structure of this early interaction. The near-comet water population comprises accelerated ions (<800 electron volts), produced upstream of Rosetta, and lower energy locally produced ions; we estimate the fluxes of both ion species and energetic neutral atoms.
Published: 23 January 2015
Comets contain the best-preserved material from the beginning of our planetary system. Their nuclei and comae composition reveal clues about physical and chemical conditions during the early solar system when comets formed. ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) onboard the Rosetta spacecraft has measured the coma composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with well-sampled time resolution per rotation. Measurements were made over many comet rotation periods and a wide range of latitudes. These measurements show large fluctuations in composition in a heterogeneous coma that has diurnal and possibly seasonal variations in the major outgassing species: water, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. These results indicate a complex coma-nucleus relationship where seasonal variations may be driven by temperature differences just below the comet surface.
Published: 23 January 2015
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