Like many first dates, Rosetta will meet Lutetia on a Saturday night, flying to within 3200 km of the space rock. Rosetta started taking navigational sightings of Lutetia at the end of May so that ground controllers can determine any course corrections required to achieve their intended flyby distance.
The close pass will allow around 2 hours of good imaging. The spacecraft will instantly begin beaming the data back to Earth and the first pictures will be released later that evening.
Rosetta flew by asteroid Steins in 2008 and other space missions have encountered a handful of asteroids. Each asteroid has proven to be an individual and Lutetia is expected to continue the trend.
Although recent high resolution ground-based images have given some idea of the overall shape of Lutetia, we have no idea what it looks like in detail. Rosetta will tell us that. Orbiting in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, initially it was thought that Lutetia is around 95 km in diameter but only mildly elliptical. Recent estimates suggest 134 km, with a pronounced elongation. Rosetta will tell us for certain and will also investigate the composition of the asteroid, wherein lies another mystery.By any measure, Lutetia is quite large. Planetary scientists believe that it is a primitive asteroid left on the shelf for billions of years because no planet consumed it as the Solar System formed. Indeed, most measurements appear to back this picture, making the asteroid out to be a ‘C-type’, which contains primitive compounds of carbon.
That is because although metallic asteroids do exist, they are thought to be fragments of the metallic core of larger asteroids that have since been shattered into pieces. If Lutetia is made of metal or even contains large amounts of metal, Dr Schulz says that the traditional asteroid classification scheme will need rethinking. “C-class asteroids should not have metals on their surfaces,” she says.
Asteroid science stands to gain once this observational conundrum is resolved because Rosetta’s data will provide a valuable collection of ‘ground truths’ that can be used to resolve conflicting ground-based observations not just for Lutetia but for other asteroids as well.
For 36 hours around the moment of closest approach, Rosetta will be in almost continuous contact with the ground. The only breaks will come as Earth rotates and engineers have to switch from one tracking station to another.
Good contact is essential because the uncertainties in the asteroid’s position and shape may demand last minute fine-tuning to keep it centred in Rosetta’s instruments during the flyby. “The skeleton of the operation is in place, and we have the ability to update our plans at any time,” says Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager.
Markus Bauer | EurekAlert!
NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
25.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A new level of magnetic saturation
25.07.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences