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Journal Articles Space Science Reviews Year : 2007

Virtis: An Imaging Spectrometer for the Rosetta Mission

S. Fonti
  • Function : Author
H. Rauer
  • Function : Author
Bernard Schmitt


The VIRTIS (Visual IR Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) experiment has been one of the most successful experiments built in Europe for Planetary Exploration. VIRTIS, developed in cooperation among Italy, France and Germany, has been already selected as a key experiment for 3 planetary missions: the ESA-Rosetta and Venus Express and NASA-Dawn. VIRTIS on board Rosetta and Venus Express are already producing high quality data: as far as Rosetta is concerned, the Earth-Moon system has been successfully observed during the Earth Swing-By manouver (March 2005) and furthermore, VIRTIS will collect data when Rosetta flies by Mars in February 2007 at a distance of about 200 kilometres from the planet. Data from the Rosetta mission will result in a comparison – using the same combination of sophisticated experiments – of targets that are poorly differentiated and are representative of the composition of different environment of the primordial solar system. Comets and asteroids, in fact, are in close relationship with the planetesimals, which formed from the solar nebula 4.6 billion years ago. The Rosetta mission payload is designed to obtain this information combining in situ analysis of comet material, obtained by the small lander Philae, and by a long lasting and detailed remote sensing of the comet, obtained by instrument on board the orbiting Spacecraft. The combination of remote sensing and in situ measurements will increase the scientific return of the mission. In fact, the “in situ” measurements will provide “ground-truth” for the remote sensing information, and, in turn, the locally collected data will be interpreted in the appropriate context provided by the remote sensing investigation. VIRTIS is part of the scientific payload of the Rosetta Orbiter and will detect and characterise the evolution of specific signatures – such as the typical spectral bands of minerals and molecules – arising from surface components and from materials dispersed in the coma. The identification of spectral features is a primary goal of the Rosetta mission as it will allow identification of the nature of the main constituent of the comets. Moreover, the surface thermal evolution during comet approach to sun will be also studied.

Dates and versions

insu-00359390 , version 1 (06-02-2009)



A. Coradini, F. Capaccioni, P. Drossart, G. Arnold, E. Ammannito, et al.. Virtis: An Imaging Spectrometer for the Rosetta Mission. Space Science Reviews, 2007, 128 (1-4), pp.529-559. ⟨10.1007/s11214-006-9127-5⟩. ⟨insu-00359390⟩
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