The NYTimes' article Hayabusa2 Prepares to Drop Rovers on Asteroid Ryugu says
Sept. 19 Rock Hoppers
Hayabusa2 is preparing to deploy two small rovers this week, each about 7 inches wide. Ryugu’s gravity is so weak that the Minerva rovers will be able to slowly hop and float across the surface using internal rotors.
and includes the image below of a close-up view of the surface.
The images appear to be bright in the center and then become darker at the edges, especially in the corners.
I can think of three possible causes of nonuniform brightness in general (there could of course be more) though perhaps not all would apply in this case:
- Optical vignetting
- nonuniform fill of camera lights or flash, or $1/r^2$ illumination drop due to strong surface curvature
- directional scattering of light (shadow-hiding) as is seen on the Moon
I don't think Hayabusa-2 is using flash photography, at it's furthest point from the Sun Ryugu is still only about 1.5 AU away.
And unless the camera has variable zoom optics pushed to their limits, I can't imagine that it would be designed with vignetting.
So are we seeing shadow-hiding here? Something else?
Question: What causes Hayabusa-2's close-up images of Ryugu to be dark in the corners?
See material at What's the story behind this Apollo-era image? for more background on this topic, and Are there ANY verified satellite images of visible light coherent backscattering from Earth? for the distinction between shadow-hiding and coherent backscattering.
below: "During an experiment to measure the asteroid’s gravity, the spacecraft took these images of the surface from less than a mile away." From here
update 2: I found one of the images on the Planetary Society page Hayabusa2 closeup on Ryugu from 1000 meters, 6 August 2018 where it says:
HAYABUSA2 CLOSEUP ON RYUGU FROM 1000 METERS, 6 AUGUST 2018
Surface of Ryugu photographed with the Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic (ONC-T) from a height of about 1000 m. The image was captured on 6 August 2018 at around 22:57 UTC. Images of the entirety of Ryugu were taken at nearly the same time by the Optical Navigation Camera - Wide angle (ONC-W1, inset). The red frame corresponds to the region in the picture taken by the ONC-T.
also here is an excellent terrestrial manifestation of shadow-hiding
update 1: This tweet by JAXA's Hayabusa2 is stunning, and a great illustration of shadow-hiding (note the bright enhancement near the center: