Skip to comments.NASA Probe to Uncover Secrets of Brightest Asteroid Vesta ('Dawn' probe to orbit protoplanet)
Posted on 07/15/2011 12:31:35 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
The asteroid Vesta may be the brightest asteroid in the solar system, but it remains shrouded in mystery.
When NASA's Dawn probe enters into orbit around Vesta on July 15 the first spacecraft to visit the 330-mile-wide (530-kilometer) protoplanet it promises to shed light on the many enigmas of the second-largest body in the asteroid belt.
NASA launched the $466 million Dawn mission in 2007, with Vesta as the first (but not last) stop. The Dawn probe is also expected to visit Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system, but only after unlocking the secrets of Vesta. Here's a look at the main questions astronomers hope the probe will help solve:
Why is Vesta so bright?
Vesta is the brightest asteroid, with a surface about three times as bright as Earth's moon, "and why it is so bright is the No. 1 mystery of Vesta," planetary scientist Christopher Russell, principal investigator for NASA's Dawn spacecraft, told SPACE.com. ..
When one looks at the most reflective celestial bodies in our solar system, Venus is the most reflective planet because of its clouds, and the sixth-largest Saturn moon Enceladus is the most reflective body overall because of its snow, "but Vesta doesn't have an atmosphere or snow," Russell noted. "Hopefully when Dawn inspects Vesta's surface, we'll get an answer."
(Excerpt) Read more at space.com ...
NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image on its approach to the protoplanet Vesta, the second-most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The image was obtained on June 20, 2011. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ UCLA/MPS/DLR/PSI)
NASA’s Dawn web site
NASA Spacecraft to Enter Asteroid’s Orbit on July 15
So they should be getting some pix soon.
Any live coverage?
Just in time for the 11 o’clock news here on the west coast
probe should get ‘captured’ about 10 PM PDT tonight ..
the probe will continue its journey and leave for Ceres, a dwarf planet, in July 2012.. it took ‘em a bit of wangling to ease in around Vesta..
If there is,, JPL and
Nasa will have it. ;-)
JPL Dawn web site
Ceres should prove more interesting...
How NASA’s Dawn Asteroid Mission Works (Infographic)
Karl Tate, SPACE.com Infographics Artist
Date: 14 July 2011
*sigh* NASA... I’ll fondly remember it.
New horizons is the mission I’m most interested in. Closest approach in 2015.
Talk about a long shot that takes forever.. Thanks!
How the heck they don’t bump into something out there is beyond me.
These “lesser” missions do help with the wait.
Pluto is still a planet in my book and definitely exciting to get a first look even if I do have to wait 9 years. That’s a hell of a ride.
I hear ya.. The Saturn 5B launches are most memorable.. the roar, the rattle,, the pure unadulterated power.. no more.
Chrome plating does wonders!
It’s really hard to imagine how vast and empty space is. :) Just a few hydrogen atoms per square meter. If you were smack in the middle of the asteroid belt, you would not likely see an asteroid for years at a time.
Lets all enjoy what is left of our space program, not going to be much of one when Obobo is done
Why so bright? A 330 mile lump of solid silver, maybe? Or just pure ice? Questions, questions...
That's no asteroid...
Looks like the craft has entered orbit....maybe. Apparently they won’t know for a while.
Even if they didn’t succeed they can try again. Apparently the trajectory of the craft is keeping pace with the roid.
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... but no commentary. I say amazing because those ridges are very reminiscent of Enceladus, e.g. which is ice, and they have been firm in saying that Vesta is dry. Also, that big lump lower left is quite interesting. ( Note light is from the right. ) Well, I guess we'll hear plenty about it if we wait a little.
That lump is probably an accreted mass that impacted with enough force to stick to the rest of Vesta but not to shatter the accreted mass into bits. The weak gravity would not have been enough to cause the complete absorption of the mass, so there it sits today. On display sort of as a warning to other asteroids. (Warning of what? I don’t know!)
It certainly gives that impression, almost as if it was a blob of clay, but I'm not sure how that fits in with the physical models that they have for this sort of process. I wonder how much of puzzle this image presents. They always brag about how they love surprises, but maybe they didn't really expect a surprise here, or maybe they'll just say this is what they expected anyway.
According to this article, it accreted and "evolved" before being bombarded. I don't see anything accounting for an accreted lump. They show a model, pre-encounter of course, that shows a bump at the bottom. I think this is supposed to be the wall of the crater at the south pole that they talk about. I have trouble lining all these things up. For instance, it's oblate, so isn't the south pole on one of the flat sides? The new picture must have the poles to the right and left ... right ? You have to dig for this stuff.
I am not sure just how much it could ‘evolve’ if it is that small. Any internal forces (causing melting) and the weak gravitational field are not enough to form it into a fairly smooth ball. Mystery to me....
The Dawn Gallery now has several additional images showing this feature. Since it's near a pole, it should remain in view as the craft approaches from a distance. However, you can see the shift in the line of the terminator as the craft starts to move into orbit.
I loved Eros ;-) and I'm loving Vesta too!