In the chaotic swarm of rock fragments that swirl between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, a gritty asteroid the size of Arizona prepared for its close-up. Between May and June of 2011, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captured images as it zoomed toward Vesta, the second-largest asteroid to inhabit the asteroid belt. First discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers in Germany in 1807, Vesta is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old. Because it hasn’t been smashed to bits by erratic space debris, scientists can study its mostly intact structure to gain clues into the way it was formed in the early universe. Watch the video to see Vesta grow large as Dawn approaches this distant world.
Watch NASA’s Dawn spacecraft zoom toward the second largest body in the asteroid belt.
The framing camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captured these images of Vesta between May 3 and June 20, 2011.
Vesta's surface first came into view in this image, which was taken from 300,000 miles away.
Vesta’s heavily pocked terrain is visible from this distance of 26,000 miles.
Images of Vesta taken by Dawn during its survey of the asteroid were combined to form this mosaic.
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Vesta video and images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/PSI/IDA
Cover image courtesy of NASA/JPL
- Julia Calderone (USRA) [Lead]