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First image of the massive asteroid Vesta
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This image, processed to show the true size of Vesta, shows the first glimpse of the giant asteroid Vesta in front of a spectacular background of stars. It was obtained by the framing camera aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft on 3 May 2011, from a distance of about 1.2 million kilometres. Vesta is so bright that it outshines its starry background, so the framing camera team programmed a long exposure time to make the stars visible. The resulting exaggerated size of Vesta was corrected by superimposing a short exposure image of the target asteroid, showing its true size. Vesta is the small, bright pearl in the middle of the image.
Vesta is 530 kilometres in diameter, and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. But, as the inset shows, Vesta is approximately five pixels across in size in Dawn's early approach images.
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