The Composition of Comets

Anita L. Cochran*, Anny Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, Martin Cordiner, Edith Hadamcik, Jérémie Lasue, Adeline Gicquel, David G. Schleicher, Steven B. Charnley, Michael J. Mumma, Lucas Paganini, Dominique Bockelée-Morvan, Nicolas Biver, Yi Jehng Kuan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is the result of the International Cometary Workshop, held in Toulouse, France in April 2014, where the participants came together to assess our knowledge of comets prior to the ESA Rosetta Mission. In this paper, we look at the composition of the gas and dust from the comae of comets. With the gas, we cover the various taxonomic studies that have broken comets into groups and compare what is seen at all wavelengths. We also discuss what has been learned from mass spectrometers during flybys. A few caveats for our interpretation are discussed. With dust, much of our information comes from flybys. They include in situ analyses as well as samples returned to Earth for laboratory measurements. Remote sensing IR observations and polarimetry are also discussed. For both gas and dust, we discuss what instruments the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander will bring to bear to improve our understanding of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as “ground-truth” for our previous comprehensive studies. Finally, we summarize some of the initial Rosetta Mission findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-46
Number of pages38
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1


  • Comets
  • Origins
  • Rosetta
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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