If you’ve ever wanted see what it would look like to orbit the asteroid Vesta in 3D, now’s your chance. You have to have red/green glasses, but I bet after seeing all the anaglyph posts I’ve made, a lot of you do. Anyway, this animation was made by NASA/JPL using data from the space probe Dawn when it was orbiting Vesta at a height of about 2700 km (1700 miles):
Very cool. I was struck the most by how the gigantic mound in the center of the south pole basin has actual and substantially-sized craters in it from impacts! Airless bodies have craters all over them — unless they resurface themselves, like Io’s volcanoes do or they have undersurface oceans like Enceladus and Europa — so it’s natural to see craters on a mountain. But usually mountains are relatively small, so big craters would wipe them out. But that mound on Vesta is huge — it rises 23 km (14 miles) above the basin floor! So there’s easily room on it for big craters.
Vesta’s a weird place, and I’m glad we’re studying it so closely. Even more closely than before in fact, since a couple of months ago Dawn dropped to only 750 km from the surface. The images it’s returning now are really amazing… as you can see for yourself!
Image and video credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA