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Emily LakdawallaDecember 14, 2012

Chang'E 2 imaging of Toutatis succeeded beyond my expectations!

The Chang'E 2 mission flyby of Toutatis succeeded in acquiring images. Oh my goodness, did they succeed. This is awesome.

Chang'E 2 images of Toutatis

Chang'E 2 images of Toutatis
The closest fly-by was at 08:30:09 UTC on December 13 at an altitude of just 3.2 km and at a relative velocity of 10.73 km/s. Quite a few photos were snapped by the CCD camera - including this series of photos taken 93 - 240 km away from Toutatis:

The images are much better than I expected them to be. There are also many more of them than I expected. I look forward to learning more about how they were acquired!

These, in combination with the incredible radar images still being acquired from Goldstone and innumerable optical observations, make Toutatis one of the best-studied asteroids in the solar system.

I'll have more to write about this in the future, but I wanted to share the news as soon as I heard it! Today, we need good news.

Here is a CCTV report on the encounter -- in Chinese, obviously, so all I get is "Chang-E," but the images in it are cool.

Many thanks to users yaohua2000 and Cosmic Penguin at unmannedspaceflight.com for bringing this to Western attention! Yaohua2000 also provided the following summary of the encounter:

Relative speed at 10.73 km/s
Closest flyby at 3.2 km altitude

Sequence (local time):
• Dec13 15:25 Return solar panels to 180 degrees
• Dec13 15:30 Switch to inertial altitude control
• Dec13 15:45 Switch to star orientation 10
• Dec13 15:48 Switch to star orientation 2
• Dec13 16:20 Solar panel monitoring camera power up
• Dec13 16:30 Closest flyby
• Dec13 16:45 Solar panel monitoring camera power down

Attached image: captured at 93–240 km distance between 16:30:09–16:30:24, maximum resolution 10 meters/pixel

Read more: near-Earth asteroids, pretty pictures, asteroids, asteroid 4179 Toutatis, Chang'E program, global views

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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