June 27, 2012
Rosetta Reveals History Of Asteroid Lutetia
The long and tumultuous history of asteroid Lutetia was revealed by ESA´s Rosetta spacecraft as it raced past this large, ancient asteroid.
This spectacular movie shows a sequence of images snapped by Rosetta as it flew past the main-belt asteroid on 10 July 2010.
The sequence begins nine and a half hours before Rosetta made its closest pass, when the asteroid still appeared like a distant tumbling speck seen from a distance of 500 000 km.
Surface features quickly loom into view and the movie concludes six minutes after closest approach, with Rosetta 6300 km from the asteroid.
A wide variety of impact craters and other features that scar the surface of Lutetia, all revealed for the first time, provide a window into the asteroid´s geological past.
Perhaps the most prominent feature is a 57 km-wide crater that marks one of the most dramatic collision events in the asteroid´s long history. Lutetia´s oldest craters are estimated to be 3.4—3.7 billion years old, while the youngest regions are just a few tens of millions of years old.
Networks of grooves, fractures and fault lines suggest that seismic events also played a role in shaping the asteroid´s surface.
Lutetia is thought to be a survivor from the very earliest period of Solar System formation some 4.5 billion years ago, and may even have tried to grow a metal heart, just like the planets.
The Rosetta spacecraft is now on its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov—Gerasimenko in May 2014. A few months later, its Philae probe will separate to make the first controlled landing on a comet.