This Dawn framing camera (FC) image of Vesta shows a very shadowed region in Vesta’s northern hemisphere. Roughly the upper one third of Vesta’s northern hemisphere is currently in shadow. This is because this part of Vesta is currently tilted away from the Sun, making it the vestan winter in this area. The continual darkness at Earth’s pole during our winter is due to the north pole being tilted away from the Sun, which is the same mechanism that is operating on Vesta. Currently, the illumination from the Sun is gradually creeping up towards Vesta’s north pole because Vesta is moving into its springtime. The rims of a number of craters are visible in this image but to get much scientific information about this area it will be necessary to wait until the area is better lit by the Sun. By the time the Dawn spacecraft leaves Vesta the north pole will be illuminated.
This image is located in Vesta’s Caparronia quadrangle, in Vesta’s northern hemisphere. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on March 23, 2012. This image was taken through the camera’s clear filter. The distance to the surface of Vesta is 230 kilometers (143 miles) and the image has a resolution of about 21 meters (69 feet) per pixel. This image was acquired during the LAMO (low-altitude mapping orbit) phase of the mission.
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington D.C. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The Dawn framing cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA/JPL.
More information about Dawn is online at http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA