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Here’s Our Best View Yet of Asteroid Kleopatra

14 Sep 2021, 16:38 UTC
Here’s Our Best View Yet of Asteroid Kleopatra
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The European Southern Observatory returns intriguing views of enigmatic asteroid 216 Kleopatra.

It’s not every day we get a new look at a distant world, let alone a strange misshapen asteroid. But that just what happened last week, when the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile released new images of asteroid 216 Kleopatra.

The four 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope, along with the four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Credit: ESO/G.Hüdepohl.

The images were obtained courtesy of SPHERE, the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument, attached to the 8.2 metre VLT Unit Telescope 3. Though SPHERE is designed for direct visual observations of planets around other stars, it does a pretty solid job at resolving objects in our own solar system, including asteroids.

Detailed view of the SPHERE optical bench. Credit: ESO.

What you’re seeing in the image sequence is twin-lobed, dog-boned shaped asteroid 216 Kleoptra. Discovered on the night of April 10th, 1880 by astronomer Johann Polisa from the Austrian Naval Pola Observatory, the asteroid ranges on a 4.7 year orbit, from a perihelion 2.1 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun, to a distant aphelion of 3.5 AU. SPHERE uses ...

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