This image, taken for the purpose of follow-up observations of the Amor-type asteroid (15817) Lucianotesi, is an impressive document of the depth of space. The asteroid, shining a magnitude 18 only, was about 54 million kilometers (corresponding to three light-minutes) away from our home planet when Markus Griesser took this image in the freezingly cold night of February 24, 2003, with an Apogee AP-8 CCD camera on the 0.4m Hypergraph reflector of the Eschenberg Observatory in Switzerland.
The image is dominated by the bright diffraction pattern of a star cataloged as SAO 117852. What seems so dazzling bright, however, is only a star of eight magnitude. The distance to this star has been determined with high precision by the Hipparcos mission to 898.5 light yeras - only a stones's throw away compared to the distance to the galaxy NGC 2966, visible in the image at left: This stellar system is located about 100 million light years from Earth. On the other end of the distance scale is the satellite which, by chance, left a trail on this 30 second exposure. This russian spacecraft orbits only about 15'000 kilometers above the Earth's surface. In total, the distances to the objects captured on this single shot - from the satellite to the galaxy - span 16 orders of magnitude!