Dawn flies over Vesta

By Phil Plait | May 10, 2012 12:51 pm

The Dawn mission has been orbiting the asteroid Vesta since July 2011. It’s taken thousands of images of the 500 kilometer-wide (300 mile) rock since then, and JPL just released an amazing video which uses real data from Dawn to simulate flying over the asteroid.

Wow. The animation at Marcia Crater (the bottom crater making up the Snowman triple impact) is especially beautiful and realistic!

Dawn is scheduled to leave Vesta in August and then take a long, slow voyage to the even-larger asteroid Ceres, arriving in 2015. So we still have several months of riveting images of Vesta to look forward to.


Related Posts:

Dawn dips down to Vesta
Vesta’s odd bottom
Vesta’s double whammy
Vesta in breathtaking detail

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, NASA, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Ceres, Dawn, Vesta

Comments (17)

  1. Chris P

    So when will Google Earth be getting their hands on this data?
    You can already fly around the Moon and Mars, surely is the data is out there for Vesta they’ll be on it. (I hope)

  2. So that’s what one might see if one were, say … Marooned Off Vesta.

  3. Chris

    I think I’ve been spoiled by all the colorful pictures of stars, nebula, galaxies and planets because when I see an asteroid, I feel a little underwhelmed. It takes a few minutes for it to really sink in what I’m observing and just how we were able to observe it. But once I grasp the enormity of the images, it sinks in and all I can say is wow.

  4. Sili

    Obviously fake! You can’t see stars in space!


  5. Tony Mach

    You have to agree, this is so much more rewarding than watching people being shuttled to and from a flying tin can, now isn’t it? Considering that we have problems filling up the racks of the tin can with useful stuff to do.

  6. Why on Earth would you want to double the vertical dimension?

    Why not just put Death Star texture mapping and color it pink to make it even more impressive than reality.

  7. Keith

    CNN did a story on Vesta today, in which they stated that Vesta is no threat to Earth. DUH!!! It’s a freakin’ main belt asteroid, its orbit comes nowhere NEAR Earth! Idiots.

  8. OtherRob

    That was my thought, too, roymeo. Well, wondering about why they needed to enlarge the vertical dimension of the last image. Not the bit about the pink Death Star. ūüėČ

  9. Danny

    I see that NASA still refers to Ceres as an Asteroid, even though the IAU reclassified Ceres as one of the dwarf planets. And some seem to think of Ceres as both a dwarf planet and the largest Asteroid in the belt.
    At the very least, I would like seeing Ceres referred to as a dwarf planet too, giving it that extra bit of distinction.

  10. Gonzo

    Oh man, I think Aricia Tholus is . . . The Face on Vesta! HA!

    Great video. The music made me think I was playing SimCity: Vesta Edition. Very well done.

  11. ceramicfundamentalist

    although i like these types of videos for the eye candy they are, i do think they can make the asteroid seem sort of insignificant. vesta is freakin huge! for the camera to be whizzing around so quickly either implies that the asteroid is quite small, or that the camera is moving and accelerating at astonishing rates. no spacecraft today would be able to make a video like this. the fact that there are no landmarks or familiar details on the surface doesn’t help – it’s impossible to figure out scale or context.

  12. Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! :)

  13. truthspeaker

    I see what you did there, Steven Doyle.

  14. Jon Hanford

    While the Vesta imagery is fantastic, I couldn’t help but notice that the star fields shown were……FAKE! For shame.

    Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson could appeal to the folks at JPL to use the real star fields in their flyover video, like he did with James Cameron and the night sky views in “Titanic”? :)

  15. thaneb

    Nice Jonathan Amos piece on BBC site summarizing Science Mag article on Dawn. Includes interpretation from gravimetric measurements (Vesta as last example of primordium from solar system aggregation period) and finding of pyroxene providing firm link of Vesta as source of HED meteorites.

  16. PurpleOzone

    Awesome results of Dawn published this week

    “The findings from the Nasa mission are reported in Science magazine.

    They confirm that Vesta has a layered interior with a metal-rich core, just as Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury do.”


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