Isn’t she beautiful?
That’s the asteroid Lutetia. Hermann Goldschmidt discovered her in 1852 from the balcony of his apartment in Paris and this month, some 158 years later, we got a much closer look. The photograph is one of several taken by the Rosetta probe. This is the one of Lutetia and Saturn that’s been getting all the attention:
This is the second asteroid that Rosetta has snuggled up to. The probe is due to to go into hibernation in just under a year’s time so that it can continue quietly on to its final destination, a comet named rather less romantically, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But in 2014 Rosetta wakes up again and deploys a lander named Philae (although I’m gonna call him Phil) whose job it is to touch down on the comet itself.
Think about that. This isn’t lets just aim some metal and crash the fucker to see what happens – this will be the first controlled landing on an actual comet.
I get all kinds of excited about this stuff and I’m not even a full-on science nerd. It just taps into the kid part of me that just thinks everything we do in space is awesome*.
But for now we can have a good look at Lutetia. If we ever get our act together and make manned missions that far she’ll literally be the best touchstone between Mars and Jupiter…
Doesn’t it suddenly strike you as crazy that Kirk, Skywalker and all those other space types never seemed to carry a camera?
More info on the mission over at the Rosetta blog.
*The September NASA shuttle launch was rescheduled for November so I’ve revised my travel plans and hope to get out there then.