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New Images of Our Second-Heaviest Asteroid, Vesta

By: Sara Walter to astronomy

Full View of Vesta.

Vesta has been growing extremely popular ever since Dawn’s mission has brought back new photos.  Members of the Dawn team have been studying photos of Vesta ever since the dawn entered it’s orbit, but in a recent press conference there have been new and more detailed photos released of the hefty asteroid.  Because Vesta was found to be older than any other planet in our solar system, even earth itself, it is believed that through studying Vesta we will learn more about the early stages of planet formation.


At the conference Dawn’s chief engineer, Marc Rayman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, proclaimed, “We’re here today to say Earth, meet Vesta”.  This conference was held explicitly to explain the details of the new photos of Vesta and to share the excitement of the diverse characteristics they encountered while studying the them.  Chris Russel, chief scientist of the Dawn mission, suggested the grooves that were found on the equator of the asteroid were probably caused by a major impact that occurred a long time ago at the south pole of the asteroid.  Russel also stated that there were dark streaks lining the inside of the craters found on Vesta’s surface, something that he said he had never seen before.  Dawn is getting closer and closer to Vesta and at some point Russel says they will be close enough to determine the source of the streaks.

After the full study of Vesta is conducted, the Dawn mission will be moving on to it’s next asteroid, Ceres. Ceres is the biggest asteroid in our solar system. The study of both asteroids will be conducted all in a single mission thanks to a new technology, called ion propulsion.

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