Small bodies and Rosetta group



 A current focus of the group is the analysis of images from the OSIRIS scientific cameras of the Rosetta mission. We have proprietary access to all images at both ESAC and ESTEC. Current research topics are:

  • Surface features of the nucleus and their interrelation with comet activity
  • Properties of individually observed dust particles and implied information about the formation of the comet
  • Chemical homogeneity of the nucleus and processes in the innermost coma from analysis of gas emissions


Further research topics at ESAC are:

  • Detection of volatiles on asteroids and dwarf planet Ceres and their interpretation
  • Surface properties of asteroids and their evolution with time


At ESTEC we are working closely together with the Near Earth Object segment of the Space Situational Awareness program and have access to their observational data. This is used to e.g. work on orbital determinations or shape estimates. We are also monitoring the sky to find asteroids thay may possibly impact.

We are involved in the discovery and characterization of asteroid families in the main asteroid belt, that are the source regions of the near-Earth asteroids. We use the data of ground-based observations of lunar impact flashes, implemented by the National Observatory of Athens (NELIOTA project), in order to characterize the near-Earth population at very small scales. In parallel we perform several experiments in European universities laboratory impact facilities to understand the impact laws for calibration of the aforementioned observations.

Additionally, we study the contamination of asteroid surfaces, meaning the presence of exogenous material alien to their composition, caused by impact events. Small bodies investigation demands the combination of their dynamical orbits with their physical properties e.g. mass, diameter, composition, density, albedo, rotation period. The physical properties provide invaluable information for large-number statistics (e.g. asteroid families, link meteorites with parent bodies etc). For this reason, we host a first database of asteroid physical properties, allowing the user access to values of the above parameters ( This database is a mirror of the one hosted at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (


Further work on meteors is described on a separate website:


The group is formed at ESAC by Michael Küppers, Mark Kidger, Sebastien Besse, Richard Moissl, Julia Marin - Yaseli de la Parra , Fernando Perez, and Claudio Munoz-Crego and at ESTEC by Detlef Koschny, Chrysa Avdellidou, and Regina Rudawska.

Some publications from the group:

Localized sources of water vapour on the dwarf planet (1)Ceres

Lutetia's lineaments

Boulders on Lutetia

On the Evolution of Comets

Large heterogeneities in comet 67P as revealed by active pits from sinkhole collapse

Activities in Europe related to the mitigation of the threat from near-Earth objects

The observing campaign on the deep-space debris WT1190F as a test case for short-warning NEO impacts

Distance determination method of dust particles using Rosetta OSIRIS NAC and WAC data

Identification of a primordial asteroid family constrains the original planetesimal population

NELIOTA: First temperature measurement of lunar impact flashes

Exogenous origin of hydration on asteroid (16) Psyche: the role of hydrated asteroid families

A Search for the Far-Infrared Ghost of C/2010 X1 (Elenin) with Herschel

Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) as seen with the Herschel Space Observatory