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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: © 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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