Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Color portrait of asteroid 21 Lutetia

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

21-07-2010 16:28 CDT


Since it doesn't look like the Rosetta mission is going to be releasing any color versions of their Lutetia close-encounter images any time soon, I figured it was time to make one. The data was out there, in the form of two close-approach images that were black-and-white, and one more distant shot in color, but the assembly effort was beyond my skill. Thankfully, Ted Stryk was willing to take a crack at it, and I think he did a great job!

Lutetia in color

ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA / color composite by Ted Stryk

Lutetia in color
This high-resolution, full-globe, color view of the largest asteroid yet visited by a spacecraft is composed from three images taken by Rosetta as it flew past Lutetia on July 10, 2010. Most of the mosaic is from a shot captured just two minutes before closest approach, with a small gap near the terminator (right side) filled in using an image captured at 4 minutes 40 seconds before closest approach. The color is from a much more distant shot. Like most solar system surfaces that have been exposed to space weathering for a long time, Lutetia is reddish in color. A PNG format version is also available.
Examining the image, I'm struck by how some craters are so much crisper-looking than others. The crisper-looking ones are probably younger. It does seem odd that the surface isn't totally saturated with smaller craters. In this context, "saturated" means that every time a new crater forms, it obliterates an old one; there's no area of the surface that is devoid of craters. But Lutetia's not like that -- it appears to have some smooth or hummocky plains separating craters. My arm-wavey explanation of this is that seismic shaking from one impact crater may smooth out the terrain, erasing other craters, especially smaller ones. If you look, you'll notice that there do seem to be a pretty good set of very big craters underlying the fresher, smaller ones; seismic shaking wouldn't tend to get rid of those. I think.

When he sent me the image, Ted remarked to me something that I'd been thinking: "That is one funky crater on the terminator. I would probably suspect it was of something other than impact origin if it was on, say, the Moon." I totally agree. It's just not the right symmetrical shape, and it has a weird round lip at its edge, and that dark halo above it. I've got no idea what it is, but it doesn't look like the other craters.

See other posts from July 2010


Or read more blog entries about:


Leave a Comment:

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

Blog Search


Support LightSail!

Our LightSail test mission was successfully completed and our Kickstarter campaign ended June 26th, raising $1.24 million dollars for LightSail's 2016 solar sailing mission! Miss the Kickstarter campaign, but still want to donate? You can!

I want to help!

Featured Images

Lagrange Points 1-5 of the Sun-Earth system
Five close-approach images of Hartley 2 by Deep Impact
Hartley 2 nucleus' split personality
Hartley 2 'snowballs'
More Images

Featured Video

Pluto and Pals featuring Emily Lakdawalla!

Watch Now

Selfies to Space!

Take flight with a selfie on LightSail™ in 2016!

Send a Selfie Now

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!