A new video from NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes you on a journey above the asteroid Vesta.
The giant asteroid Vesta gets the all-around treatment in a new video from NASA's $466 million Dawn mission.
The two-minute visualization was created from imagery collected by the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera from a distance of about 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers). The Dawn team used all that imagery to figure out exactly how Vesta rotated on its axis, relative to celestial north and south.
In today's video advisory, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the asteroid's prime meridian was defined using a 1,640-foot-wide (500-meter-wide) crater that they named "Claudia," after a prominent Roman vestal virgin from the second century B.C. Dawn's scientists decided that the craters they found on Vesta would be named after vestal virgins, who were the priestesses of the goddess Vesta in ancient Rome. Other features will be named for festivals and towns of the ancient Roman era.
The most prominent feature on Vesta is the huge circular depression at the asteroid's south pole, which is thought to have been created by a cosmic impact. The cliffs along the sides of the structure are several miles high, and a 9-mile-high (15-kilometer-high) mountain rises from the center. In the video above, you can hear Carol Raymond, the Dawn mission's deputy principal investigator, talk about the depression as well as Vesta's grooves and the "Snowman" crater chain.
Dawn is due to study Vesta from closer range over the next year, and then move on to a rendezvous with the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. Speaking of Ceres, this weekend is a fine time to go out with binoculars or a telescope and see the biggest thing in the main asteroid belt.
This false-color video takes a spin around Vesta. Colors reflect elevations on the asteroid.
More about asteroids and dwarf planets:
- Dawn spacecraft gets down to work at Vesta (in 3-D)
- Asteroid or planet? NASA may settle Vesta debate
- Meet the solar system's dwarf planets
- Interactive: The new solar system
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