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Japanese Craft Takes Close-up Photos of Asteroid

Japanese Craft Takes Close-up Photos of Asteroid
Scientists made this colorized image of the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa by combinging images taken in various wavelengths by Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft. (Image credit: ISAS/JAXA)

The images show sunlight illuminating the asteroid from behind the camera, making the terrain features of the object appear more subdued, said ISAS scientists. The rotation period of the irregularly-shaped Itokawa is about 12 hours.
 
Hayabusa is almost still in relation to Itokawa, ISAS scientists explain. The spacecraft's residual relative speed toward the asteroid means that Hayabusa "stays within the sphere of influence of Itokawa," they noted.
 
Calculating the mass of Itokawa is one of the most important science observations in this Hayabusa mission.
 
The Hayabusa project is a collaborative mission with participation by NASA.

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.