All around a small world!
Hayabusa has finished an exciting excursion around Itokawa. The figure below indicates the spacecraft position during the latter half of October. The definition of HP coordinates was described in previous articles.
After reaching the sub-solar point,Hayabusa started to travel out of the ecliptic plane to observe the polar regions of Itokawa.The image below shows the southern hemisphere of Itokawa.
Due to the low altitude and solar elevation angles, we can see detailed topography in the high-latitude regions. There are even some boulders on Muses-Sea, which looked very smooth in previous observations. Imagine one of these boulders flying in space. If it came to the Earth's vicinity, we would observe it as a tiny independent near-Earth asteroid. It has long been conjectured that meteorites are fragments of asteroids delivered to the Earth's surface, but it remains to be proven. The samples of Itokawa collected and returned by Hayabusa could provide the first direct evidence of the link between asteroids and meteorites.
November 1, 2005