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Monday, 12 July 2010 00:09

Rosetta spacecraft sees potato-shaped asteroid

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The European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta took detailed images of the asteroid Lutetia as it flew past the "deeply pockmarked, irregular rock" that is probably a left-over piece from the formation of the Solar System over 4.6 billion years ago.

 


The ESA Rosetta spacecraft traveled past asteroid Lutetia, which is being described as a potato-shaped asteroid, at a speed of approximately 9 miles (15 kilometers) per second and at a distance of just about 1,965 miles (3,162 kilometers).

The closest approach of the spacecraft to the asteroid occurred at about 18:10 Central European Summer Time (CEST), or 1610 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The pair are in the middle part of the Solar System, about 280 million miles (450 million kilometers) from the Sun'”at a distance just past the orbit of the planet Mars.

The OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) camera, onboard the spacecraft, took images of the asteroid with a resolution down to about 60 meters.

OSIRIS, built by the German organization Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, is the primary imaging system on the ESA Rosettta spacecraft.

Learn more about the Rosetta encounter with the asteroid Lutetia in the July 10, 2010 ESA article 'Rosetta triumphs at asteroid Lutetia.'

The article contains images of the asteroid, along with other information about the mission.

Page two continues.

 

 



The ESA article, mentioned on page one, states in part: 'The images show that Lutetia is heavily cratered, having suffered many impacts during its 4.5 billion years of existence. As Rosetta drew close, a giant bowl-shaped depression stretching across much of the asteroid rotated into view. The images confirm that Lutetia is an elongated body, with its longest side around 130km [kilometer].'

And, "Lutetia has been a mystery for many years. Ground telescopes have shown that it presents confusing characteristics. In some respects it resembles a 'C-type' asteroid, a primitive body left over from the formation of the Solar System. In others, it looks like an 'M-type'. These have been associated with iron meteorites, are usually reddish and thought to be fragments of the cores of much larger objects.'

Finally, "The flyby marks the attainment of one of Rosetta's main scientific objectives. The spacecraft will now continue to a 2014 rendezvous with its primary target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will then accompany the comet for months, from near the orbit of Jupiter down to its closest approach to the Sun. In November 2014, Rosetta will release Philae to land on the comet nucleus.'

 

 

 


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