Solar System investigation from Earth and Space

Solar System investigation from Earth and Space


Monica Lazzarin, Ivano Bertini, Francesco Marzari

Postdocs, PhD

Fiorangela La Forgia, Vasiliki Petropoulou, Elisa Frattin, Gabriele Umbriaco

Research Activity

The Solar System group has a dated back international reputation in the field of the Solar System going from the spectrophotometry of asteroids and comets, to the modelling of cometary dust and gas emission processes, to the study of small bodies dynamics, to the analysis of images coming from spatial missions, in particular from the European Rosetta mission of which most of the team members are Co-Is or Associate Scientists.
Most members of the team is also involved in the study of new missions as Castalia, devoted to a main belt comet or Bepi Colombo and Juice missions in collaboration with the Astronomical Observatory of Padova.

Rosetta Mission

Since the first flyby of Rosetta with the asteroid Steins in 2008, then with Lutetia in 2010 and afterwards with the comet 67/P from 2014, most of the efforts of the team have been devoted to the mission planning and to the reduction and analysis of the huge amount of data we have obtained from the camera OSIRIS (more than 80000 images that will require years of analysis). The results till now obtained are of great importance for the comprehension of the origin and evolution of comets and of the whole Solar System as can be deduced from the numerous papers already published also on the major international journals such as Science and Nature.
The main topics till now investigated are:

* Modelling of cometary dust observed by OSIRIS (collaboration with Fernando Moreno and Olga Munoz, Istituto de Astronomia dell'Andalusia (Spagna), V. Zakharov, Meudon Obs., Parigi e Marco Fulle, Trieste Obs.).
* Spectrophotometric study of cometary surface by applying the shape model and the Hapke model (collaboration with Matteo Massironi, Dipartimento di Geoscienze)
* Study and modelling of cometary gas (collaboration with M. A’Hearn and Dennis Bodewits, Univ. of Maryland, USA).

The team is involved also in other topics connected with small bodies, in particular:

1. SINEO project (Spectroscopic Investigation of Near Earth Objects), in the visible and near infrared region of Near Earth Objects (NEO), whose origin is not clear yet and owing to their vicinity to the Earth they are also potentially threatening for our planet. This is a long term project started more than ten years ago. We use the TNG, ESO telescopes and those in Asiago. The study of the surface composition of NEOs, and also of other objects such as TNOs, comets , Phobos, etc. is performed also comparing data with theoretical models (collab. with Cristina Dalle Ore, Dale Cruikshank, Maurizio Pajola, NASA-Ames, California) SINEO is included in the European Space Agency project named Space Situational Awareness, which aims to the discovery and study of threatening objects and its referring center is the NEOCC center at ESRIN--ESA in Rome (collaboration with Detlef Koschny-ESA, Ettore Perozzi, ASI-Roma). We perform also theoretical studies of NEOs and main belt objects by investigating the Yorp and Yarkovsky effects (collaboration with A. Rossi, CNR Firenze and Don Scheeres, University of Colorado, USA).

2. We partecipate to an European Project, funded since 2015, within the framework of Horizon 2020, named NEOSHIELD2 (PI A. Harris, DLR, Berlin, Germany) to study NEOs. Our group partecipates by observing photometrically small NEOs, 150-300m and performing astrometric studies of objects not yet dynamically well defined.

3. Recently we started an investigation of V-type basaltic asteroids of the main belt. The data are obtained from the TNG and compared with Vesta data obtained from Dawn mission (collaboration with M.C. De Sanctis and Alessandra Migliorini-IAPS-INAF Roma, Mauro Barbieri Universita’ di Atacama, Cile).

4. Some years ago we started a collaboration with the University of Boston (Prof. Michael Mendillo, Center for Space Physics, Boston Univ.) to investigate high atmosphere phenomena of the Earth with a camera installed at Asiago-Cime Ekar. The observations of the night sky are performed continously and the data reduced daily.
5.We partecipate to a national network, named PRISMA (Prima Rete Italiana per la Sorveglianza di Meteore e Atmosfera) for the observation and study of fireballs, meteorites recovery and study of the terrestrial atmosphere. PRISMA is composed by many italian institutes and universities that installed a PRISMA wide angle camera so we will be able to perform simultaneous observations of objects while falling on the Earth. Meteorites are the main source of information of the hystory of the Solar System. The sky images are gathered day and night, with a frequence of 30 frames per second giving the possibility also to investigate sistematically the terrestrial atmosphere. A camera of the PRISMA project has been installed at Cima Ekar.

Courses held:

Monica Lazzarin: Astrofisica del Sistema Solare (Laurea triennale- Astronomy).
Ivano Bertini: Fondamenti di Astronomia e Astrofisica (Laurea in Ingegneria Aerospaziale).
Francesco Marzari: Fisica dei Pianeti, Fisica e Biofisica (Laurea Magistralis-Astronomy and Laurea in Medicine).