The first photos of a giant space 'golf ball' asteroid have been released

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:50 pm

In March 1802, a German astronomer looked up into the night sky and was aghast at what he saw.

Blasting through the asteroid belt was a large lumpy rock, the third biggest asteroid in the ring of asteroids that encircle Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury.

He named it Pallas after the Greek goddess of wisdom - but everyone else soon called it 'The Golf Ball'.

Over 200 years later, in a paper published in Nature Astronomy, scientists from MIT university have finally been able to photograph the extremely fast moving object - which hurtles around our solar system every four years.

Why is it called a Golf Ball?

The nickname 'Golf Ball' comes from the asteroid's unusual tilt - and its extremely violent four billion year history. When it whirls around the asteroid belt, the object is prone to smash into everything in its path, riddling the surface with giant craters.

First photographs of gold ball asteroid Pallas (Photo: MIT)

"From these images, we can now say that Pallas is the most cratered object that we know of in the asteroid belt. It’s like discovering a new world," says Michaël Marsset - an MIT postdoc and the paper’s lead author.

Captured between 2017 and 2019, the photographs of the Golf Ball were taken at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope array in Chile, when the asteroid was at its closest location to Earth.