Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now Join Now!

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

   Please leave this field empty
Blogs

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 8: Itokawa

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

08-12-2009 12:50 CST

Topics:

I love this asteroid. It's just so weird-looking. And yet it may be quite typical of the solar system -- there are probably many more objects in the solar system that look like misshapen, bouldery Itokawa than look like anything else ever visited by a spacecraft. In an imagined sci-fi future where astro-mining spaceships (crewed or, more plausible I think, robotic) grapple asteroids to mine them for metals or water, we'd be seeing a lot of little nameless bodies like this one.

Or perhaps not. Every time we visit an asteroid, we see something that looks completely different from the previously visited ones. And when I consider just how few asteroids have been visited compared to the thousands and thousands that are out there, I can't wait for what the next asteroid mission will discover.

Itokawa's "otter" shape was photographed by Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft from September through November 2005. All of the images were released to the public in April 2007, and I converted them and posted them all here for people to play with. I enjoy just browsing that page to see how Itokawa's rotation makes the asteroid appear all kinds of funny different shapes. This color portrait of Itokawa was created from the raw images by Ricardo Nunes.

Itokawa in color

JAXA / ISAS / color composite by Ricardo Nunes

Itokawa in color
Hayabusa captured the three images for this true-color view of Itokawa on September 19, 2005. Itokawa is the smallest asteroid that has been visited by a spacecraft at 535 by 294 by 209 meters.

Go to the blog homepage to open the most recent door in the planetary advent calendar!

 
See other posts from December 2009

 

Or read more blog entries about:

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

JOIN THE
PLANETARY SOCIETY

Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

South Georgia island

ATV-5 and a waning moon
Moscow at night
Squished supermoon
More Images

Fly to an Asteroid!

Travel to Bennu on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft!

Send your name

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!