ScienceShot: Rough Life for Asteroid Lutetia

The Rosetta spacecraft didn’t linger in its 54,000-kilometer-per-hour flyby of the asteroid Lutetia on Saturday, but it has already confirmed the impression left by observations from afar: Lutetia is a much-battered remnant of the earliest days of the solar system. As astronomers had inferred, the asteroid, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is elliptical and 132 kilometers long; it's also roughly shaped and bears several craters, including at least one large impact crater. That amount of damage indicates that Lutetia has been around for billions of years. Settling the debate over the asteroid's ultimate origin will require an analysis of its mineralogical nature (i.e., whether it is rocky or a metallic). Astronomers hope Rosetta’s spectroscopic observations will provide those data in the coming weeks and months.

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