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July 14, 2010: The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has beamed back close-up photographs of asteroid Lutetia, an ancient, cratered relic from the dawn of the solar system. Scientists are abuzz about the stunning images, which reveal a world lot of haunting, alien beauty.
"I've never seen anything like it," says Claudia Alexander, project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta Project. "It looked as though it could have been fractured off of a mother asteroid – it was all angles and flat planes, ancient impacts overlaid by newer ones, covered by dust of some kind."
And then there's the perplexing appearance that boulders rolled down Lutetian slopes at some point.
"If that is indeed what we're seeing, the question becomes 'what could have caused the rolling? Perhaps the asteroid spun-up, spun-down, or experienced some orbital irregularity. It's not clear right now that the asteroid is subject to the forces that could cause these things. This is another issue for further study."
ESA PR 15-2004. Today the Rosetta Science Working Team has made the final selection of the asteroids that Rosetta will observe at close quarters during its journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Steins and Lutetia lie in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Rosetta’s scientific goals always included the possibility of studying one or more asteroids from close range. However, only after Rosetta’s launch and its insertion into interplanetary orbit could the ESA mission managers assess how much fuel was actually available for fly-bys. Information from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany enabled Rosetta’s Science Working Team to select a pair of asteroids of high scientific interest, well within the fuel budget.
The selection of these two excellent targets was made possible by the high accuracy with which the Ariane 5 delivered the spacecraft into its orbit. This of course leaves sufficient fuel for the core part of the mission, orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for 17 months when Rosetta reaches its target in 2014.
Originally posted by sickofitall2012
Why look at that particular asteroid? Where is it located? Most importantly, where's it headed? Sorry if this is already common knowledge, I'm not familar with this one.