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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora