Feeds

Comet-hunting Rosetta films distant asteroid

And snaps pics of Mars

High performance access to file storage

The comet-hunting spacecraft Rosetta has sent back its first sighting of the asteroid 21-Lutetia, one of two rocky bodies it will study en route to the comet 67p Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will not get anywhere close to the rock for more than two years, but has already begun sending back preliminary data.

A view of Mars and the Milky Way from Rosetta

Once the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) mounted onboard the Rosetta orbiter was up and running, it began tracking the asteroid. Along with its planned observations of asteroid 2867-Steins, this early study of the 100km-wide Lutetia will help the mission in a number of ways.

Like comets, asteroids contain much information about the conditions of the early solar system. One of Rosetta's primary goals is to help scientists gain a better understanding of this.

So far, the images sent back amount to little more than a stationary white blob against a background of cosmic rays smashing into the OSIRIS detector on board Rosetta. Not surprising, considering it is still some 245 million kilometres away. ESA has posted an animated sequence here.

For now the ESA scientists have been analysing how the light emitted by the asteroid changes intensity. This will allow them to build a light curve for the asteroid, and therefore work out the direction in which it is rotating.

In July 2010, Rosetta will pass much closer to Lutetia, coming within 3,000km of the rock. ESA scientists hope this early long range study will allow them a chance to practise their observational techniques for the later, closer mission.

Before that, in September 2008, Rosetta will make a close pass of the much smaller Steins asteroid.

The next encounter for Rosetta is Mars. The comet-chaser will make its closest approach to the red planet on 27 February, gaining a velocity boost from the encounter. Late last year, after an instrument check, Rosetta sent back a stunning picture of an overexposed Mars against the backdrop of the Milky Way (above). ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.