Blind Date With An Asteroid

Asteroid Lutetia, seen from Rosetta's OSIRIS imaging system.
(click on the image for a High-Res)

We know how blind dates are, always not sure of what to expect! This was how exactly felt by ESA scientists and rest of the world watching the live web cast of ESA's Rosetta spacecraft's flyby of 21 Lutetia; the largest asteroid ever to visited by a satellite.

After weeks of maneuvers and optical observations, Rosetta is perfectly lined up to skim by the asteroid only 3,162 km (2,000 miles) away. ESA hosted a live web cast at 16:00 GMT on July 10 which was followed by many around the world.

I managed to watch the live web feed while Tweeting (@ThilinaH) and sharing updates on Facebook as well. It was a great experience and below are some stunning images of the Asteroid Lutetia.

At a distance of 36000km the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera (NAC)
took this image catching the planet Saturn in the background.
(click on the image for a High-Res)

Approach images of Asteroid Lutetia. The first image was
taken at 06:18 (about 9.5 hours before closest approach,
510000 kms from the asteroid), the last one at 14:15 (about
1.5 hours before closest approach, 81000 km from the asteroid.).
The resolution changes from 9.6 km/px to 1.5 km/px.

(click on the image for a High-Res)

an animation of the approach
(click on the image for a High-Res)

Zoom in on a possible landslide and boulders at the highest resolution.
(click on the image for a High-Res)

Rosetta took multiple images of asteroid Lutetia during the fly-by.
Shown here is the final sequence of images before closest approach
(CA): CA-8, CA-4:40, CA-2, CA-1:50.
(click on the image for a High-Res)

Farewell Lutetia.
(click on the image for a High-Res)

Rosetta will continue on to its primary target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will rendezvous with the comet in 2014 and accompany the comet for months, mapping it and studying it. Then in November 2014, Rosetta will deploy Philae to land on the comet nucleus.

Rosetta's route through the inner Solar System.

Rosetta orbiting the comet with Philae in view in this artist's impression.

Until then the ESA scientists will spend time getting to know this newly found friend (then stranger), analyzing data.

You can watch the replay of the web cast at: