We are interested in studying the properties of minor bodies, such as asteroids and comets. Our involvement in the ESA ROSETTA mission allowed us to study in great detail the comet 67/P Churymov-Gerasimenko. We are also involved in the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission, which reached the asteroid 101955 Bennu on 3 December 2018.
We are studying the formation and evolution processes that characterize the surface of comet 67P. Our approach is to merge geomorphological, spectrophotometric and 3D analyses to shed lights both on specific areas of interest on the comet, such as the Abydos final landing site for Philae, as well as the global layered structure of 67P. We also focus our analyses on the photometric properties of the dusty grains ejected from the nucleus and on one of the major surface changes witnessed around perihelion, the Aswan cliff collapse.
For more information, please read:
- Massironi, M., et al., 2015: Two independent and primitive envelopes of the bilobate nucleus of comet 67P,Nature,526,402-405
- Lucchetti A., et al., 2016: Characterization of the Abydos region through OSIRIS high-resolution images in support of CIVA measurements, A&A 585 L1
- Cremonese, G. et al., 2016: Photometry of dust grains of comet 67P and connection with nucleus regions, A&A, 588 (2016) A59
- Pajola, M. et al., 2017: The pristine interior of comet 67P revealed by the combined Aswan outburst and cliff collapse, Nature Astronomy,1,92
OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in the NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Its goals are manifold:
- To return and analyze a sample of pristine asteroid regolith, in order to study its nature and constituent minerals.
- To map the global properties, chemistry and mineralogy of the asteroid
- To document the morphology and spectral properties of the regolith where the sample will be collected down to sub-millimetric scales
- To measure the YORP effect on a potentially hazardous asteroid
- To compare the results from ground-based telescopic data of the entire asteroid population
Such informations are of great importance as asteroids are considered remnants of the original building blocks of the Solar System, and may help us to better understand it’s formation, over 4.5 billion years ago.
In the framework of the OSIRIS-REx mission, we are analyzing the size-frequency distribution of boulders on Bennu’s surface in order to gain insights on its origin and to evaluate the final landing site, where samples will be collected.