The number of asteroids that have been directly photographed is very limited, because the probes that do so are very large budget and public. That's why it's surprising to see images like this of Amun:

image from that site

Please correct me if I'm wrong (because this is important), but I believe the original source for this is The Celestia Motherlode:


Photography of this object is not possible with any existing telescope. The 3D model has a great deal of intentionality to it, so I don't think it is just made up, epically after looking at the rest of their library.

This claims to be the product of the Celestia simulator. But what does this do? Is there radio astronomy data that goes into such renderings? What are these illustrations showing?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Here is a paper on the various ways to derive the shape of an asteroid. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


The way these images are usually done are by imaging the object for an extended period of time, and seeing how they are different. This can be done either with radar or passive systems like visible and infrared light.

Here is a paper detailing how it is done, but basically they incrementally rotate the object in simulation around and seeing what matches, and what doesn't. Improvements are then attempted to make it match better.

This probably doesn't account for the texture, which is probably artificial, but it could be based off of radar returns from the area, which will show things like the texture.


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