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/dawn/multimedia/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: Testing immune cells on the International Space Station

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

Testing immune cells on the International Space Station

1 hour ago

The human body is fine-tuned to Earth's gravity. A team headed by Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy is now conducting an experiment on the International Space Station ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

7 hours ago

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Apr 19, 2014

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

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.

More news stories

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.