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Rosetta Flyby Diary - Dr Stuart Clark

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Also published today is my diary of the flyby. This appeared in The Times.
“ESA’s Rosetta mission has returned spectacular images of the mysterious asteroid Lutetia. The battered surface is a mass of craters, strewn with boulders and grooves. It is the largest of only nine other asteroids visited by so far. This is how the mission built up.



Friday 18:30 CEST
Suddenly the flyby seems real. Rosetta’s Navigation Camera returns a pictures showing Lutetia in the centre of its field of view. Lutetia is a small blob, just seven pixels across but already its elongated shape can be seen. More good news arrives: the flight dynamics team have finished their calculations and Rosetta is bang on course. There is no need for a correction manoeuvre.

20:00
Spirits are high. Over dinner in a nearby pizzeria there is speculation that Lutetia may be a new class of asteroid altogether. It displays contradictory characteristics from ground-based observations: resembling a primitive C-class asteroid in some views, and a metallic M-class in others. If a C-class it would contain fragile carbon-bearing molecules and date from the very beginning of the solar system. If an M-class then it could once have been at the centre of a larger asteroid that was shattered. ...”

To read the full diary click here, but please note it is behind The Times paywall. At the moment it’s only a pound for a month’s subscription.

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