Dawn sends first low altitude images of Vesta

Dec 21, 2011
The two images on the left represent an identical area, first observed during Dawn's survey orbit (far left image). That orbit aimed to obtain a global characterization of the asteroid. The picture in the center is from Dawn's high-altitude mapping orbit (HAMO) when the surface was systematically imaged during September and October 2011 from an altitude of about 430 miles (700 kilometers) with about 230 feet (70 meters-per-pixel) resolution for global high-resolution stereo image data that were used to develop a global shape model and topographic maps. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system's early history.

At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

A gallery of images can be found online at: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/daw… a/gallery-index.html .

The images were returned to Earth on Dec. 13.  Dawn scientists plan to acquire data in the low-altitude mapping orbit for at least 10 weeks. The primary science objectives in this are to learn about the elemental composition of Vesta's surface with the gamma ray and neutron detector and to probe the interior structure of the asteroid by measuring the gravity field.

Explore further: Computer model shows moon's core surrounded by liquid and it's caused by Earth's gravity

Related Stories

Dawn spacecraft spirals down to lowest orbit

Dec 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta ...

Dawn beams back asteroid science data

Aug 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Dawn spacecraft has completed a graceful spiral into the first of four planned science orbits during the spacecraft's yearlong visit to Vesta. The spacecraft started taking detailed observations ...

Dawn soars over asteroid Vesta in 3-D

Dec 02, 2011

Glide over the giant asteroid Vesta with NASA's Dawn spacecraft in a new 3-D video.  Dawn has been orbiting Vesta since July 15, obtaining high-resolution images of its bumpy, cratered surface and making ...

Dawn nears start of year-long stay at giant asteroid

Jun 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early ...

The faces of Vesta (w/ video)

Jun 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New images of the asteroid show the first surface structures and give a preview of the Dawn mission's coming months.

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

16 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

16 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Kafpauzo
1 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
I don't understand how such a prudish nation as the United States can release images such as these.

Of course, it's very nice to see that the question whether life exists in outer space is now settled. I'm just surprised that it was settled in this particular way.
alq131
not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
...oh, yes life exists in outer spac... wait.. what!? kafpauzo, what the h377 are you talking about? did you read the wrong article?
Kafpauzo
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
alq131, did you miss the first sentence in my comment? As I said, it's about the pictures, not the text. Read my first sentence, and then look at the pictures.