Definition and Illustration of Light Curve

Word of the Week: Light Curve

A graph showing the brightness of an object, such as an asteroid, over time. As an object spins, variations in brightness are visible due to its shape or to light and dark areas on its surface. Scientists can estimate an asteroid’s rotation period by studying the amount of time between peaks in the curve.

During mission planning, light curve data were used to predict Bennu’s rotation period (4.3 hours). As OSIRIS-REx approaches Bennu, it will take images to construct more precise light curves that will reveal more about the asteroid’s rotation, shape, and variations on its surface.

Credit: University of Arizona


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