June 27, 2010

An Invitation To Swing By Asteroid Lutetia

The Rosetta Orbiter, a European Space Agency spacecraft heading for a 2014 encounter with a comet, will be flying close to asteroid Lutetia on Saturday, July 10. Classes and clubs are invited to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 2 to 4 p.m. that day to see first-ever, close-up images of Lutetia, talk to a NASA/JPL Rosetta project manager and participate in educational activities.

Lutetia is a large metal-rich asteroid and part of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Rosetta will make its closest approach to Lutetia at 9:10 a.m. (Pacific Time), flying within 3,200 kilometers (just under 2,000 miles) of the asteroid's surface. This encounter will be Rosetta's first observations of a metal asteroid.  The suite of NASA instruments aboard Rosetta will record the first-ever ultraviolet view of such an asteroid, make measurements that will help scientists understand the properties of the asteroid's surface crust, record the solar wind in the vicinity and look for evidence of an atmosphere.

Beginning at 2 p.m. at JPL, NASA's project manager for U.S. instruments on Rosetta, Art Chmielewski, will review first images with students and discuss the asteroid encounter. There will also be educational activities about comets and asteroids. The JPL events will be geared to students in grades 3 - 8.

To sign up for this event, contact Andrea Angrum at 818-354-6775.

The European Space Agency will be webcasting events starting at 8 a.m.  More information about the webcast and the Rosetta Mission's 2014 encounter with  comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko can be found at http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Rosetta/ .


Image Caption: Artist's concept of Rosetta Orbiter. Image credit: ESA