shapeViewer is a publicly available scientific software designed to display a 3D model of a comet/asteroid, simulate observations from a space mission, project data on the shape. It provides a series of tools specifically developed for mapping and geomorphological investigation.

shapeViewer has been used for operations planning and scientific analysis by the camera teams of Rosetta (ESA) and Dawn (NASA) missions. We currently support the AIDA project: DART (NASA) + Hera (ESA), and Comet Interceptor (ESA).


  • interactive visualization of asteroid and comets shape models, with photometrically accurate rendering,
  • high performance: switch to a new mission or load shapes with 1+ million facets in less than a second, runs at 60 FPS on a standard laptop,
  • real time rendering of operational scenarios, spacecraft orbit and attitude pre-configured for each mission,
  • retrieval of observation geometry and solar angles (incidence, emission, phase, elevation),
  • calculation and display of the gravity field and effective slopes on the surface,
  • accurate projection of images and other datasets on the shape, individually or in a user-defined sequence (on the fly, no need for any preprocessing of the data),
  • view and export cylindrical, orthographic maps,
  • … and many other features

Screenshots and movies

NavCam image
shapeViewer simulation
of the same view

Visualizations can be exported as individual frames and assembled in a movie. In software,
one can interrupt the "movie" at any time to look at the shape from other angles or change parameters.

Projected NAC color data
from Oklay et al, A&A (2016)
Southern hemisphere of
asteroid Itokawa
Image mosaic projected on asteroid Vesta.
Shading describes gravitational slopes.
Same view as a map,
with one of the mutiple projections provided

Download and install

shapeViewer is supported on Windows 10 and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, 64 bits systems.

Users of other Linux distributions and MacOS can run the Windows executable through the WINE interface (albeit slowly).
A graphic card supporting at least OpenGL 2.0 is necessary (usually true if your computer was built after 2004).

shapeViewer is provided as a single zip file. Extract it in the folder of your choice, and run the executable file for your system.

Mission Software bundle Release date
Hera shapeViewer_4.0.0_Hera.zip (124 Mb) 2021-06-08
Rosetta shapeViewer_4.0.0_Rosetta.zip (167 Mb) 2021-06-08

User manual

The latest version of the User Manual is available online.
A PDF version with the same content is distributed with the software.


We kindly ask all users to include the following acknowledgement:
This research has made use of the scientific software shapeViewer (www.comet-toolbox.com).

Additional reference:
Vincent et al. shapeViewer, a sofware for the scientific mapping and morphological analysis of small bodies, LPSC, (2018).


Since 2010, shapeViewer has been referenced in many papers and conference talks. Here is a selected list of peer-reviewed publications which benefited from the software.
  • O'Rourke et al. The Philae lander reveals low-strength primitive ice inside cometary boulders. Nature, (2020).
  • Birch et al. Migrating Scarps as a Significant Driver for Cometary Surface Evolution. GRL, (2019).
  • Vincent et al. Bouncing boulders on comet 67P. EPSC, (2019).
  • Vincent et al. shapeViewer, a sofware for the scientific mapping and morphological analysis of small bodies, LPSC, (2018).
  • Birch et al. Geomorphology of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. MNRAS, 469:S50-S67 (2017).
  • Gicquel et al. Modeling of the outburst on 2015 July 29 observed with OSIRIS cam­eras in the Southern hemisphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. MNRAS, 469:S178-S185 (2017).
  • Masoumzadeh et al. Opposition effect on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using Rosetta-OSIRIS images. A&A, 599:A11 (2017).
  • Oklay et al. Long-term survival of surface water ice on comet 67P. MNRAS, 469:S582-S597 (2017).
  • Pajola et al. The pristine interior of comet 67P revealed by the combined Aswan outburst and cliff collapse. Nature Astronomy, 1:0092 (2017).
  • Vincent et al. Constraints on cometary surface evolution derived from a statistical analysis of 67P's topography, MNRAS, (2017).
  • Barucci et al. Detection of exposed H2O ice on the nucleus of comet 67P as observed by Rosetta OSIRIS and VIRTIS instruments. A&A, 595:A102 (2016).
  • Oklay et al. Variegation of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in regions showing activity. A&A, 586:A80 (2016).
  • Oklay et al. Comparative study of water ice exposures on cometary nuclei using multi spectral imaging data. MNRAS, 462:S394-S414 (2016).
  • Vincent et al. Are fractured cliffs the source of cometary dust jets? Insights from OSIRIS/Rosetta at 67P. A&A, 587:A14 (2016).
  • Vincent et al. Summer fireworks on comet 67P. MNRAS, 462:S184-S194 (2016).
  • Masoumzadeh et al. Photometric analysis of Asteroid (21) Lutetia from Rosetta-OSIRIS images. Icarus, 257:239-250 (2015).
  • Vincent et al. Large heterogeneities in comet 67P as revealed by active pits from sinkhole collapse. Nature, 523:63-66 (2015).
  • Vincent et al. Crater depth-to-diameter distribution and surface properties of (4) Vesta. PSS, 103:57-65 (2014).
  • Vincent et al. Physical properties of craters on asteroid (21) Lutetia. PSS, 66:79-86 (2012).