Vesta in Dawn's rear view mirror

September 11, 2012
As NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

(Phys.org)—NASA's Dawn mission is releasing two parting views of the giant asteroid Vesta, using images that were among the last taken by the spacecraft as it departed its companion for the last year.

The first set of images is a color-coded relief map of Vesta's , from the pole to the . It incorporates images taken just as Dawn began to creep over the high northern latitudes, which were dark when Dawn arrived in July 2011. The other image is a black-and-white mosaic that shows a full view of the giant asteroid, created by synthesizing some of Dawn's best images.

"Dawn has peeled back the veil on some of the mysteries surrounding Vesta, but we're still working hard on more analysis," said Christopher Russell, Dawn's principal investigator at UCLA. "So while Vesta is now out of sight, it will not be out of mind."

This image from NASA's Dawn mission shows the topography of the northern and southern hemispheres of the giant asteroid Vesta, updated with pictures obtained during Dawn's last look back. Around the time of Dawn's departure from Vesta in the late summer of 2012, dawn was beginning to creep over the high northern latitudes, which were dark when Dawn arrived in the summer of 2011. These color-shaded relief maps show the northern and southern hemispheres of Vesta, derived from images analysis. Colors represent distance relative to Vesta's center, with lows in violet and highs in red. In the northern hemisphere map on the left, the surface ranges from lows of minus 13.82 miles (22.24 kilometers) to highs of 27.48 miles (44.22 kilometers). Light reflected off the walls of some shadowed craters at the north pole (in the center of the image) was used to determine the height. In the southern hemisphere map on the right, the surface ranges from lows of minus 23.65 miles (38.06 kilometers) to 26.61 miles (42.82 kilometers). The shape model was constructed using images from Dawn's framing camera that were obtained from July 17, 2011, to Aug. 26, 2012. The data have been stereographically projected on a 300-mile-diameter (500-kilometer-diameter) sphere with the poles at the center. The three craters that make up Dawn's "snowman" feature can be seen at the top of the northern hemisphere map on the left. A mountain more than twice the height of Mount Everest, inside the largest impact basin on Vesta, can be seen near the center of the southern hemisphere map on the right. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

These will be the last daily images during the cruise to Dawn's second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres. Other images will be highlighted as findings are made. Other data will be archived at pds.nasa.gov .

Dawn left Vesta on Sept. 4, 2012 PDT (Sept. 5, 2012 EDT). The spacecraft is using its to travel to Ceres. It is expected to arrive in early 2015.

Explore further: Dawn spacecraft captures video of asteroid approach (w/ video)

Related Stories

Dawn gets extra time to explore Vesta

April 19, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Dawn mission has received official confirmation that 40 extra days have been added to its exploration of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The mission ...

Dawn easing into its final science orbit

June 15, 2012

(Phys.org) -- After successfully completing nearly five months scrutinizing the giant asteroid Vesta at its lowest orbit altitude, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will begin its final major science data-gathering phase at Vesta on ...

Dawn Engineers Assess Reaction Wheel

August 14, 2012

Engineers working on NASA's Dawn spacecraft are assessing the status of a reaction wheel -- part of a system that helps the spacecraft point precisely -- after onboard software powered it off on Aug. 8. Dawn's mission is ...

Dawn spacecraft prepares for trek toward dwarf planet

August 30, 2012

(Phys.org)—NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant solar system destinations, to help scientists answer questions about the formation of our solar system. The spacecraft ...

Recommended for you

Opal discovered in Antarctic meteorite

June 28, 2016

Planetary scientists have discovered pieces of opal in a meteorite found in Antarctica, a result that demonstrates that meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids early in the history of the solar system. Led by Professor ...

Clandestine black hole may represent new population

June 28, 2016

Astronomers have combined data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to conclude that a peculiar source of radio waves ...

Minor mergers are major drivers of star formation

June 28, 2016

Around half of the star formation in the local Universe arises from minor mergers between galaxies, according to data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The patch of sky called Stripe 82 is observed repeatedly to produce ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarD
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
Looks like Pluto
Caliban
4 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2012
Interesting, to be sure.

It is annoying, though, that the view of the equator has been smoothed, rather than showing the actual edge-view.
desotojohn
not rated yet Sep 11, 2012
Based on the composition of Vesta (nickel-iron core, olivine mantle, and basaltic crust), it doesn't look like there will be a mining operation anytime soon.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.