Monday, October 12, 2009
Hubble has given us a new view of the large asteroid/protoplanet 2 Pallas, a fairly interesting body that is actually the second-largest one in the asteroid belt after Ceres but less massive than 4 Vesta given its lower density. Since objects in between Mars and Jupiter quite often turn out to have resources such as ice the question when new information comes in is whether this would be a suitable object for human exploration, but 2 Pallas has such an inclined orbit that this simply isn't possible. Compare the orbits (and note that these links always crash Firefox for me so I use Opera to view them; your mileage may vary) of Ceres, 24 Themis and 2 Pallas. Ceres is a little bit off the orbital plane but is still a fairly simple operation, 24 Themis is absolutely superb as it lies almost perfectly along the equatorial (and thus no different than any of the major planets), while 2 Pallas is way out there. If you move the bar on the right in order to look at the orbits from a horizontal point of view you can see this extremely well; Pallas is an extremely difficult target to reach.