Eberhard Grün

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Eberhard Grün (born 1942, in Germany) is a German planetary scientist specialized in cosmic dust research. He is an active emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics[1] , Heidelberg (Germany), research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in Boulder (Colorado), and was a Professor at the University of Heidelberg until his retirement in 2007. Eberhard Grün has a leading role in international cosmic dust science since over 30 years.


Eberhard Grün studied Physics at the University of Heidelberg and received his degree in 1968. After his studies he did his PhD in the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, and he received his doctoral degree in 1970 from the University of Heidelberg. The topic of his thesis was "Mass Spectroscopy of Impact Induced Ions". From 1970 until 1974, he was a research assistant in the MPIK, developing dust detectors for spaceborne missions and doing research on impact ionization for these dust detectors. During this period, he spent 6 months as a visiting scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center focusing on data analysis of cosmic dust experiments, and 6 months as a visiting scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, doing research on hypervelocity impact phenomena. In 1974, he became a senior research scientist at the MPIK.

Eberhard Grün habilitated in physics in 1981 at the University of Heidelberg and he became a lecturer ("Privat-Dozent") at this same University in 1983. In 1981 he went back to the US for 6 months as a senior research associate of the US National Research Council (NRC), while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There he concentrated on dust-magnetosphere interactions and on data analysis of the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This stay abroad was followed in 1982 by a 6-months stay at the Lunar and Planetary science Institute (LPI) in Houston, for studying dynamics of interplanetary dust.

Since 1989 he is a professor at the University of Heidelberg.

In 2000, he became researcher at the Hawaii institute of Geophysics and Planetology, at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu (until 2007), while remaining a senior research scientist at the MPIK.

In 2004 Eberhard Grün was a visiting scientist ("Erskine Visitor") at the Physics and Astronomy department of the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand where he gave several lectures on the solar system, orbital dynamics, and the cosmos.[2]

In 2007 he became a research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) of the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA).[3]

In 2007, he retired from the MPIK after having worked there for 37 years. He remains active in dust science as an emeritus at the MPIK, and as a research associate at LASP.

Scientific work[edit]

His research currently focuses on Lunar dust processes, development of space instrumentation (LDEX, DUNE, SARIM) and dust accelerator research. During his over 40 year long scientific career the main fields of work were:

  • Dust accelerator experiments to study impact processes and calibrating space instruments
  • Development for in situ space instrumentation for dynamical and chemical analysis of interplanetary and interstellar dust grains
  • In situ investigation of interplanetary and interstellar dust
  • Astronomical and in situ investigation of comets and cometary dust
  • Dynamics and chemistry of meteoroids
  • Dynamics of planetary rings

From 1981 until his retirement in 2007, he guided over 100 undergraduate and 50 graduate students towards their diploma and PhD-degrees. He wrote more than 50 first-author papers and collaborated with other scientists on more than 300 papers. More than 10 of his publication were issued in the worldwide leading journals Nature or Science. His research has an unmatched impact on dust science in the solar system.

Eberhard Grün was the Principal Investigator (PI) of dust instruments on many space missions like Helios 1 (1974), Helios 2 (1976), Galileo (1989), Ulysses (1990), and Cassini–Huygens (1997). Moreover, he was a PI and Co-Investigator (Co-I) for numerous other observations and instruments. Among the most prominent are the dust instruments on board the Mars mission Nozomi (1998), ESA's first cometary mission Giotto (1985), and the IR photometer on ISO (1995). Currently he is active as Interdisciplinary Scientist for ESA's Rosetta mission to comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko where he is Co-I for several Instruments on the spacecraft.

Main discoveries[edit]

His work on detection techniques of dust in the solar system has led to a thorough understanding of the dust distribution of dust in the solar system. His scientific work is most known on the size distribution of interplanetary dust at 1 AU, which is a reference for many studies and known as the Grün distribution. Moreover, his dust detector on board the Ulysses space craft discovered the flow of interstellar dust (ISD) sweeping through the solar system and the hyper-velocity streams of nano-dust which are emitted from Jupiter and than couple to the solar magnetic field.

Further important discoveries:

  • Predictions and detection of ISD focusing and defocusing cycles
  • Prediction of dust rings around Jupiter, and how they are fed from Jovian satellites
  • Propagation and evolution of dust emitted from comets
  • Prediction and detection of „beta meteoroids
  • Leading developer of impact ionization dust detectors in space
  • Development of the ESA meteoroid model


Eberhard Grün is affiliated to the following professional societies:


Prof. Dr. Grün received numerous prizes in recognition of his scientific work. Since 1976, he received several NASA and ESA awards. He was elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and as foreign associate of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In 1996, the asteroid 1981 EY20 was named after him "4240 Grün".[5]

Eberhard Grün was the recipient of the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in 2002, for "outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science". The DPS mentions: "His career is an unbroken record of high quality work that has provided us with a good fraction of what we understand about the smallest bodies in the solar system.".[6]

In 2003 he received the David Robert Bates Medal from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his "Innovative experimental and wideranging scientific contributions to dust research throughout the heliosphere".[7]

In 2006 he received the Space Science award of the COSPAR for outstanding contributions to space science.[8]

Eberhard Grün received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in April 2011 for his leading role in dust science for over 30 years.[9] [10] This is one of the highest awards for astronomers and planetary scientists.

Selected publications[edit]

Selected media appearances[edit]

On May 5, 2011, Eberhard Grün was guest in the German science talk show "Scobel" hosted by Gert Scobel.[11]


  1. ^ "Cosmic Dust Group". MPIK. Archived from the original on 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  2. ^ "University of Canterbury". University of Canterbury. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  3. ^ "LASP CCLDAS Biography". LASP. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  4. ^ "IAU Membership Page". IAU. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  5. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". NASA. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  6. ^ "DPS Kuiper Prize 2002". Division for Planetary Sciences. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  7. ^ "EGU David Robert Bates Medal". European Geosciences Union. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  8. ^ "Space Science Award". COSPAR. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  9. ^ "Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal". LASP. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  10. ^ "Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal (in German)". University of Stuttgart. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  11. ^ "Scobel". 3SAT. Retrieved 2012-04-24.