Asteroids Rock! – redux – Updated

[Updated with images from the fly past]  Japan’s Hayabusa probe looks like it might have successfully returned material from the asteroid Itokawa, if not as much as they had hoped.  Meanwhile Esa’s Rosetta probe, last seen [on Slugger] in 2008, is taking time out from its mission to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to take a look at the asteroid Lutetia.

Artist’s impression of Lutetia. Image credits: ESA – C. Carreau.

At 4.44pm [BST] today Rosetta will fly past the 100km wide Lutetia within a distance of 3200km.  Nasa are paying attention as they also have an interest.  

The Irish Times notes a local connection, but here’s an Esa video report on “The Rosetta Odyssey” featuring some of the scientists involved.

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at

And Esa will be live-streaming events from their control room as it happens – starting at 4.30pm.   There’s also the Rosetta blog.

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at

Once the fly past has been completed they’ll begin the download of the scientific data.  It’s expected that a presentation of the data collected, including images, will be made around 10pm.

Update ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL CONFIRMED Rosetta back in communication with earth after making spectacular flyby of Lutetia.

And The latest BBC report has these images of Lutetia taken from Rosetta as it approached the asteroid.

The largest image in the sequence is of the asteroid Lutetia at a distance of 80,000km.

Update  Here are some of the images of the fly past from the presentation.  Via the Rosetta blog.  All images Credit: (C) ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA 

A stunning image of approach to Lutetia at 36,000km with a ringed Saturn visible in the far distance.

Final sequence of images before closest approach.

Zoom into detail with grooves and craters.

A close-up of the surface of Lutetia with what has been suggested is a landslide with boulders on the surface of the asteroid.

Farewell Lutetia!

  • Pete Baker

    OK. Looks like I’ve, and the BBC, have gotten the timings wrong.

    Live coverage seems due to begin at 5pm [BST], with the closest approach about 5.10pm

  • Pete Baker

    Update ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL CONFIRMED Rosetta back in communication with earth after making spectacular flyby of Lutetia.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve added a sequence of images of Lutetia taken as Rosetta approached the asteroid.

  • Pete Baker

    Live streaming of the presentation of images from Rosetta underway.

  • Pete Baker

    They’ve taken a stunning image of Lutetia with a ringed Saturn just visible in the far distance.

  • Pete Baker

    The formatting’s a bit screwy, but I’ve added some of the images from the fly past by Rosetta.


  • joeCanuck

    That one is the best, by far, imaginationwise.

  • RepublicanStones

    I was at the Ulster museum yesterday and I was astonished to find that the exhibit which caught my attention the greatest was the darkened ‘rock room’, with all manner of crystal and quartz etc, all the colours you can imagine. There was some asteroid/meteor fragments in there too, surprising how fascinating a lump of rock can be to look at.

  • Pete Baker


    But look at the ultra close-up with the suggested landslide and boulders on the surface.

    Lutetia is only 120-130km wide. And it has sufficient gravity to keep loose material on its surface.

  • Oracle

    Hi Pete,

    just a query i have, is the asteroid rotating at all?

    if not is it’s velocity creating the dynamic of gravity?

  • Pete Baker

    Interesting point, Oracle.

    From what I remember of the presentations given, Lutetia is rotating slowly in relation to Rosetta.

  • joeCanuck

    All bodies in space seem to rotate due to an excess of angular momentum in a particular direction of the particles which agglomerated to create them. Collisions between bodies can also transfer angular momentum from one to the other.
    Gravity does not depend on either velocity or rotation. As described by Einstein, gravity is due to a warping of space-time which causes any two bodies to “fall” into a well created by this warping and thus to move closer together. All tests of Einstein’s theories have passed and they are still ongoing.