Even though it doesn’t quite qualify as a 'proper' planet, the second most massive asteroid in the Solar System, Vesta – which has a diameter of approximately 530 kilometres – exhibits numerous planetary characteristics. This is just one of the many significant results of NASA's Dawn mission, published in the journal Science on 11 May 2012. The Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Vesta since 16 July 2011. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is involved in the mission.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been in its lowest orbit around asteroid Vesta since mid-December 2011. During November the orbit was gradually lowered to an altitude of 210 kilometres above the asteroid's surface.
No asteroid or rocky planet looks quite like the asteroid Vesta, which the US Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting since July 2011; countless craters, furrows and slopes define the landscape of this celestial body. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has produced a 3D film from the imagery recorded by the cameras on board the spacecraft.
Varied impact craters, valleys, canyons and mountains among the highest in the Solar System – the 3D images and videos of the asteroid Vesta created by scientists at the German Aerospace Center reveal a most unusual celestial body. The US Dawn spacecraft, carrying a German camera system on board, has been orbiting the asteroid since July 2011.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been in orbit around the asteroid Vesta since 16 July 2011. A German camera system on board is being used to acquire images of the asteroid's surface. These images show craters, hills and even shapes that remind the researchers of snowmen.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is another step closer to Vesta; only 5200 kilometres now separate the asteroid and its new ‘neighbour’, Dawn. The images show Vesta from ists south pole to areas in the northern hemisphere.
After almost four years traveling through space, the NASA Dawn spacecraft reached its destination and entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta on 16 July 2011. On board Dawn, among other instruments, is a Framing Camera for imaging the surface of the asteroid. Using data from this camera system, scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will create detailed maps and elevation models of this celestial body.
The images acquired by the German camera system on the US spacecraft Dawn are currently being used for navigation purposes in its journey to the asteroid Vesta. A film, created by the Dawn team researchers from individual images acquired at a distance of about 481,000 kilometres, already reveals how complex the surface of the asteroid is.
The camera system on board the Dawn spacecraft has acquired its first image of the massive asteroid Vesta. Although the mission's first target is still about 975,000 kilometres away, appearing as just a large white dot, "we now have visual contact with our objective," said Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). In August 2011, the camera will photograph the asteroid from an orbit with a planned survey altitude of 2700 kilometres; the data will then be processed to develop a three-dimensional model.
What might asteroid Vesta look like? In a new animation, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have recreated the asteroid in 3D. In the animation, the asteroid is irregularly shaped, has a slight indentation at its South Pole and numerous impact craters. In July 2011, after a four year journey, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will reach the asteroid, which circles the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This will be like taking a journey into the past because Vesta is a celestial body that has not changed much since the formation of the Solar System.