September 20th, 2011
10:23 AM ET

NASA's Dawn mission flies over Vesta

Vesta, the second-most massive object in the asteroid belt, is revealing its secrets. New images and video taken by the Dawn mission's framing camera are helping scientists understand how many of the asteroid's interesting features were formed.

One of those features, a circular depression in Vesta's south pole region, is several hundred miles in diameter. Scientists have been eager to take a closer look at this region since the Hubble Space Telescope first indicated its existence, several years ago.

These new images were taken from an altitude of about 1,700 miles above the asteroid's surface, and were used to establish Vesta's rotational axis and a system of latitude and longitude coordinates on the surface.

This video, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team managing the Dawn mission, shows Vesta from the spacecraft's perspective. The JPL team notes that Vesta, like Earth, has seasons, which is why the asteroid is only partially lit in the video. It's currently winter at Vesta's north pole.

Read more about the Dawn mission.

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Sokman

    Dawn will study the biggest object, the dwarf planet Ceres, around 2015.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  2. ajd041

    Intruiging this is pretty cool but it would be better if it went by the biggest object

    September 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

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