by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 22, 2011
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.
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 orbit 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.
Dawn at NASA
Dawn at JPL
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
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Dawn Spirals Down to Lowest Orbit Above Vesta
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 13, 2011
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit. "Dawn has performed some complicated and beautiful choreography in order to re ... read more
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