Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dawn Gives a Myriad of Vesta Photos

Dawn is starting to approach Vesta for its four intensive-scientific orbits that are to come. Starting August 11, Dawn will start its orbits at a distance of 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) away from the asteroid, which can be viewed easily in the night sky. NASA writes that "Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt as seen from Earth and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth." This image below was taken at the distance of 5,000 kilometers (3,200 miles) away and shows incredible detail of the protoplanet.It was taken on July 24, 2011.

From a few team members: "Now that we are in orbit around one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system, we can see that it's a unique and fascinating place," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We have been calling Vesta the smallest terrestrial planet," said Chris Russell, Dawn's principal investigator at UCLA. "The latest imagery provides much justification for our expectations. They show that a variety of processes were once at work on the surface of Vesta and provide extensive evidence for Vesta's planetary aspirations."

Estimated at around 9:47 PDT (12:47 EDT), Dawn technically 'entered' Vesta's orbit. Although this is an estimated guess, so far this is the generally accepted time. But, as Dawn entered that orbit, it brought back some pretty amazing photos, which are shared here.

Close-up of Vesta's "snowman" craters, named by the Dawn camera team members!
Close-up of Vesta's south-pole regions
Craters in the south-equatorial region

"The new observations of Vesta are an inspirational reminder of the wonders unveiled through ongoing exploration of our solar system," said Jim Green, planetary division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Before Dawn reached Vesta, all we could see was a spot of blur in the night sky, even by the Hubble Telescope. Now, with Dawn we see incredible detail. (Below is an image of Vesta before Dawn arrived). So, this goes the same for Pluto and other Kuiper-Belt Objects. When New Horizons reaches Pluto (etc), Pluto will no more be a blur in the night sky as well!

Vesta in 2007; credit Hubble.

No comments:

Post a Comment