This Dawn FC (framing camera) image is dominated by a double crater, which is located in the top of the image. The left side crater is 18 km in diameter and the right side crater is 23 km in diameter. This double crater may have been formed by the simultaneous impact of a binary asteroid. Binary asteroids are asteroids that orbit their mutual center of mass. As they orbit a mutual center of mass they move on a nearly identical path through the solar system. Thus, when they are on a collision course with another body in the solar system, such as Vesta, they will both impact the body and create overlapping craters. It is unlikely that this double crater was formed by one impact and then another because both of the craters seem to have a similar freshness and hence a similar age. It is unlikely that two non-binary asteroids would impact nearly the same spot on Vesta at a similar time. Other remarkable features across the image are young, small craters featuring bright ejecta rays. The bright linear rays at the bottom of the image originate from craters outside of the imaged area.
This image is centered in Vesta’s Tuccia quadrangle and the center latitude and longitude of the image is 31.2°S, 203.7°E. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on November 8th 2011. This image was taken through the camera’s clear filter. The distance to the surface of Vesta is 483 km and the image has a resolution of about 45 meters per pixel. This image was acquired during the transfer to 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