"A set of three craters, nicknamed 'Snowman,' are seen in this image of the northern hemisphere of Vesta. This image was obtained by the framing camera on NASA's Dawn spacecraft on July 24, 2011 from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers)."Source: NASA
On Monday, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory released the first full-frame images of the asteroid Vesta, taken by the Dawn spacecraft from a distance of about 3,200 miles.
Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, as seen from Earth. It has a surface area approximately twice that of California's and is 330 miles in diameter. Scientists are interested in what they've been calling "the smallest terrestrial planet" because they think its rocky surface may reveal what was happening in the earliest days of the solar system.
Studies by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that the southern part of the asteroid was damaged by a large impact, and Monday's images show that indeed, Vesta's south hemisphere has a much smoother, less-cratered terrain than the area north of its equator. The impact created a huge crater and debris, and was of such magnitude that it smoothed out Vesta's southern surface, erasing the effects of earlier impacts that are still visible in the north.
Welcome to August, and to your weekly roundup of great reads in the science and space fields:
–If you like space photography, you may be familiar with planetary nebulae, which are large clouds of gas that are roughly spherical in shape. The one that's making headlines now is the newly identified Kronberger 61. Not only is it nice to look at, with its almost-soccer-ball quality, but it's also in the region of study of the Kepler probe, which may find insights into how such planetary nebulae form in the first place, Time reports.
–Fashionistas, prepared to be amazed by insects called treehoppers, which wear intricate "helmets" that mimic other natural phenomena and may help amplify sound. Some helmets resemble aggressive ants; others, caterpillar droppings or thorns. New Scientist has more on these tricky creatures.