Vesta’s Formation History? It’s Complicated.

Just when scientists thought they had a tidy theory for how the giant asteroid Vesta formed, a new paper from NASA’s Dawn mission suggests the history is more complicated. If Vesta’s formation had followed the script for the formation of rocky planets like our own, heat from the interior would have created distinct, separated layers…

Dawn Makes an Elemental Discovery on Vesta

In what could be called a “eureka” moment for Dawn researchers and planetary scientists alike, hydrogen has been found on the surface of Vesta, a 550-km (340-mile) -wide protoplanet and the second most massive world in our Solar System’s main asteroid belt. The elemental discovery was made with the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND)…

An Asteroid’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

Vesta — the asteroid that was almost a planet — has its complex surface composition revealed in this animation made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The video reveals the dappled, variegated surface of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The animation drapes high-resolution false color…

The Surface of an Asteroid

Bright craters, dark craters… craters shaped like butterflies… they’re all represented here in a panorama made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, currently orbiting the 330-mile-wide asteroid Vesta. I stitched two images together (using a third for gap fill-in) that were originally acquired by Dawn’s framing camera in October 2011 and released last week. This shows…

Is Vesta a Planet Among Asteroids?

After nearly 5 months in orbit around Vesta, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned some incredibly detailed data about the composition and structure of what was once surely considered an asteroid. But now scientists are starting to have second thoughts about what exactly Vesta is… is it really an asteroid? Or is it more like a…

Pay a Visit to Vesta

Can’t see the video below? Click here. Here’s a great video released by JPL taking us on a virtual tour of the asteroid Vesta, from the point of view of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. It’s a shape model of Vesta, mapped with actual images acquired by Dawn during its approach and orbit of the 550-km (340-mile)…

A Snowman on Vesta

Aptly nicknamed the “Snowman”, these three craters were imaged on August 6, 2011 by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the protoplanet Vesta. Located on Vesta’s northern hemisphere, the craters were first visible to researchers on July 23. Dawn has been in orbit around Vesta for one month now and has already returned many amazingly detailed…

New Vesta Images!

Released today, this is one of several new images taken with the full-frame camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft currently in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. Look at the detail in the surface! Incredible! This image shows the southern hemisphere of Vesta, and around its equator are long, deep grooves. Many different sizes of craters can…

Now that’s some groovy rock!

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captured this image of the asteroid Vesta while in orbit on July 18, 2011. The view looks across Vesta’s cratered and heavily-scarred south pole from a distance of about 6,500 miles. Dawn established orbit at Vesta the morning of July 17, 2011. It will spend a year studying the large protoplanet before…

Dawn: Orbit Established!

It’s confirmed: Dawn has entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta! The spacecraft, which launched in September 2007, has been steadily approaching the giant asteroid for several months. Its mission is to orbit Vesta for a year, studying its surface and composition, and then push off toward the even larger asteroid Ceres. Actually classified as a…

The Coming of Dawn

Can’t see the video below? Click here. After traveling almost four years and 1.7 billion miles, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is less than 100,000 miles from its first target: Vesta, the second-largest asteroid in the solar system. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is believed to be the…

A First Look at an Asteroid

Ever wonder what an asteroid would look like from three-quarters of a million miles away? Well, here ya go. 🙂 This image, a processed version of the original, shows the true size of the 330-mile-wide asteroid Vesta as seen by the approaching Dawn spacecraft on May 3, 2011. The original image contained a lot of…