Asteroid Lutetia as viewed by the Rosetta spacecraft on July 10, 2010.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.
Lutetia is a medium-sized asteroid. It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Its official name is "21 Lutetia" because it was the 21st asteroid discovered. Lutetia was discovered by Hermann Goldschmidt from the balcony of his apartment in Paris in 1852. Lutetia is the Latin name for Paris.
This lumpy object is about 96 km (60 miles) in diameter. It isn't a perfect sphere, though. Lutetia is 132 km (82 miles) across one way, but only about 76 km (47 miles) long in another direction.
Astronomers aren't quite sure what Lutetia is made of. It may have more metal in it than most asteroids. However, some observations of Lutetia show that it is mostly rock, like most other asteroids. The material that an asteroid is made of gives us clues about how it formed and what has happened to it over the history of the Solar System.
The European space probe Rosetta flew past Lutetia in July 2010. Rosetta gave us our first good look at the asteroid. Lutetia is the largest asteroid visited by a spacecraft so far. Rosetta was zooming along at a speed of 15 km/s (9 miles/sec or more than 33,000 mph) when it flew by Lutetia! Rosetta sent some great pictures and lots of other data back to Earth. After its visit to Lutetia, Rosetta continued on its long journey to land on a comet in 2014.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
Scientists believe that the solar system was formed when a cloud of gas and dust in space was disturbed, maybe by the explosion of a nearby star (called a supernova). This explosion made waves in space...more
The solar system is made up of the Sun, the // Call the planets count function defined in the document head print_planet_count('planets'); planets and // Call the planets count function defined in the...more
Rosetta is a European space probe. It was launched in 2004. Its main mission is to fly to a comet and land on it. Along the way it has flown by two asteroids. In July 2010 it flew by an asteroid named...more
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was discovered in 1969 by Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko. The comet orbits the Sun once every 6.57 years. Its orbit brings it closer to the Sun than Mars at the...more
Toutatis is a very strange asteroid. It has a strange shape, and it spins in a very unusual way. Sometimes Toutatis comes close to Earth. This asteroid is shaped sort of like a potato. Its size is 1.92...more
Lutetia is a medium-sized asteroid. It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Its official name is "21 Lutetia" because it was the 21st asteroid discovered. Lutetia...more