9969 Braille - August 3, 1999 - The initial results from the Deep Space One flyby of asteroid Braille have uncovered a "family tree" mystery with Braille returning a spectrum reading similar to the main belt asteroid Vesta. In addition, the pictures returned indicate a world that has been splintered hard with Braille a "sliver" of rock or a clump of two or more distinct rocks orbiting together.
The key science results identified so far include;
When Deep Space 1 flew within an estimated 26 kms of the surface of 9969 Braille, its infrared sensor confirmed that the small asteroid is similar to Vesta, a rare type of asteroid and one of the largest bodies from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It has long been thought that near-Earth asteroids had a relationship with Vesta, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, where most asteroids are to be found.
Scientists are now wrestling with the question: is the near-Earth asteroid Braille a chip off the old block, Vesta, or are the two siblings, which originated elsewhere, perhaps thrown off a larger body long since destroyed.
The scientists made their finding from three sets of data collected by the spacecraft's infrared camera. Called spectra, a form of data resulting from the instrument that breaks light into component colors like a glass prism does. The data sets cover different parts of the asteroid and were sampled just after closest approach.
Braille's longest side is now estimated at 2.2 kms and its shortest side appears to be 1 km. This elongated asteroid was expected to be irregular, and two photographs taken approximately 15 minutes after closest approach have helped to confirm this.
By contrast, Vesta, discovered in 1807, has a diameter of about 500 kms. The fourth asteroid ever discovered, Vesta shares with Braille a high visual reflectivity, or albedo. In fact, Vesta is the most reflective of the main belt asteroids.
Apart from flyby findings, project scientists have determined that in approximately 4,000 years Braille will become one of the hundreds of asteroids that drift across Earth's orbit over the Eons.
Diagnosis of an apparent target-tracking problem that impacted visible imaging during the flyby continues.
Of the 12 new technologies on board, all but the spacecraft's autonomous navigation system had been completely tested since launch. With the asteroid encounter, AutoNav finished its last five percent of testing. Science return was a bonus for this technology validation mission.
Deep Space 1 Reports From Spacer.Com
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