News / Science & Technology

NASA's 'Robotic Emissary' Reveals New Details of Asteroid

In this image, obtained by Dawn's framing camera, a peak at Vesta's south pole is seen at the lower right. The grooves in the equatorial region are about 10 kilometers wide. The image was taken on July 24, 2011, from a distance of about  5,200 kilometers
In this image, obtained by Dawn's framing camera, a peak at Vesta's south pole is seen at the lower right. The grooves in the equatorial region are about 10 kilometers wide. The image was taken on July 24, 2011, from a distance of about 5,200 kilometers

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is about 188 million kilometers from Earth.  And in a matter of days, it will begin gathering information about the giant asteroid Vesta.  The  spacecraft already has returned vivid and surprising images of the asteroid since it successfully maneuvered into a low orbit around Vesta last month.

Dawn is on a mission filled with historic firsts.  It is the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  It is the first to use ion propulsion, a gentle and progressive means of acceleration that provides greater speeds than any other technology.  Dawn also is slated to become the first spacecraft to orbit two solar system bodies in addition to Earth. 

But Dawn's chief engineer and mission manager, Marc Rayman, says there is something more that captures his imagination.

"What I think is really exciting about this is that, after two centuries of observing this fuzzy little blob of light among the stars, Earth now has a robotic emissary in orbit at Vesta," said Rayman.

Dawn is sending back images that show the asteroid in greater detail than scientists have ever seen.

Christopher Russell of the University of California, Los Angeles is the Dawn principal investigator.  He says the new images show Vesta's surprisingly varied surface.

"Bright areas, dark areas," said Russell. "We see dark material that we never expected on there, you know.  What is causing those craters with the black streaks going down them?  I haven't seen anything like that before."

The stark black and white images show numerous craters, ridges and elongated grooves on Vesta - the second most massive object in the asteroid belt.  The Dawn science team is working to determine the significance of Vesta's distinct features, such as the large grooves around the asteroid's equatorial region.  Mission team members say they expect that studying Vesta's features will keep them busy for years. 

Beginning this month, Dawn will map the mineral composition and features of Vesta's surface, collect information about Vesta's gravity field, and peer into a deep, massive crater that might provide a view into the asteroid's interior.

After Dawn spends a year orbiting Vesta, the spacecraft will travel to the dwarf planet Ceres.  Vesta will arrive there in February 2015.

Scientists say they hope that by studying the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt, they will better understand the history of our solar system.  

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid