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Asteroids, the Universe, and Everything: Meet 42 space rocks

13 Oct 2021, 13:00 UTC
Asteroids, the Universe, and Everything: Meet 42 space rocks
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Between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system lies the Main Asteroid Belt, a region over 150 million kilometers across where most of the biggest asteroids lie. The first, Ceres, was discovered on January 1, 1801, and since then over a million more have been found. There may be a billion or more larger than 100 meters in size.

Because they’re far away and tend to be small, they appear as dots in telescopes — the name "asteroid" means "star-like." That’s been true for decades, centuries really, until we started to see asteroids up close via spacecraft or via radar.

Still, telescopes and cameras on Earth have improved massively in the past few decades, and now it’s possible to get resolved images of the biggest asteroids in the Main Belt. A team of astronomers has not done just that: Using the immense (8.2-meter) Very Large Telescope and the SPHERE/ZIMPOL instrument, they imaged 42* asteroids, some of the largest in the Belt.

Actual images of 42 asteroids, some of the largest in the main asteroid belt, taken using the Very Large Telescope and SPHERE camera. Note the 100 km scalebar. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS)

Whoa. Some of ...

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