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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes one last look at the giant asteroid Vesta as it heads to the Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission is releasing two parting views of the giant asteroid Vesta, using images that were among the last taken by the spacecraft as it departed its companion for the last year.

The first set of images is a color-coded relief map of Vesta’s northern hemisphere, from the pole to the equator.

As NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)

As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)

It incorporates images taken just as Dawn began to creep over the high northern latitudes, which were dark when Dawn arrived in July 2011. The other image is a black-and-white mosaic that shows a full view of the giant asteroid, created by synthesizing some of Dawn’s best images.

“Dawn has peeled back the veil on some of the mysteries surrounding Vesta, but we’re still working hard on more analysis,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator at UCLA. “So while Vesta is now out of sight, it will not be out of mind.”

These will be the last daily images during the cruise to Dawn’s second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres. Other images will be highlighted as findings are made. Other data will be archived at http://pds.nasa.gov .

This image from NASA's Dawn mission shows the topography of the northern and southern hemispheres of the giant asteroid Vesta, updated with pictures obtained during Dawn's last look back. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

This image from NASA’s Dawn mission shows the topography of the northern and southern hemispheres of the giant asteroid Vesta, updated with pictures obtained during Dawn’s last look back. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Dawn left Vesta on September 4th, 2012 PDT (September 5th, 2012 EDT). The spacecraft is using its ion propulsion system to travel to Ceres. It is expected to arrive in early 2015.

For more on the story, see: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has left the Giant Asteroid Vesta and heads to the Dwarf Planet Ceres

JPL manages the Dawn mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.

Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, VA, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Dawn, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .


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