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Astronomy Picture of the Day
2012 September 19
Leaving Vesta
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS, DLR, IDA

Explanation: Next stop: Ceres. Last week the robotic Dawn spacecraft ended its year-long mission to asteroid Vesta, becoming the first spacecraft ever to visit this far off world located between Mars and Jupiter, in the Solar System's main asteroid belt. Many of the best images taken by Dawn at Vesta have been compiled into the above encompassing view. Vesta shows evidence of being a leftover from the early years of our Solar System, a building block for rocky planets like Earth. Vesta's ancient surface shows heavy cratering and long troughs likely created by huge impacts. The minor planet's low gravity allows for surface features like huge cliffs and a large mountain that reaches twice the height of Earth's Mount Everest, visible at the image bottom. Vesta, however, spanning about 500 kilometers across, is only the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. And so, two weeks ago, Dawn fired its gentle ion rockets and has begun chasing the most massive: Ceres. If everything goes as planned, Dawn will reach Ceres in 2015. Ceres looks quite different to the distant telescope -- but what will Dawn find?

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.

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  • Main Page

    Welcome to Planetary Database, Data for the Celestial Bodies! Planetary Database is a database...

  • Vesta

    Vesta is the second most massive body in the asteroid belt. It is unique among asteroids in that...

  • Template:SolarSummary

    Solar System Sun Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Earth Venus Mars Ganymede Titan Mercury Callisto...

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current11:17, July 2, 2014Thumbnail for version as of 11:17, July 2, 2014579 × 473 (184 KB)Jcpag2010 (wall | contribs)
08:07, October 17, 2013Thumbnail for version as of 08:07, October 17, 2013300 × 249 (25 KB)Jcpag2010 (wall | contribs)

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