Posts Tagged ‘Vesta’


24 Dec

Dawn Jingles the Season

by Dawn Education & Communications

As the holiday season has approached over the past several years, two members of the Dawn team have had a kick creating mission-based lyrics to the tune of three traditional carols in their free time. For your inner space-nerd ready for some holiday spirit, here are a few more flight team members, singing them. Enjoy!

Singers include Roger Klemm, Kristina Larson, Greg Whiffen, Keri Bean, Todd Barber, and Carol Polanskey

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25 Feb

Virtual Tour of Vesta

by Thomas Roatsch

The International Astronomical Union recently approved a new set of feature names for giant asteroid Vesta: Albia, Africana and Alypia Craters, to name a few. Among the features are dorsa (ridges), fossae (long, narrow shallow depressions), a rupes (scarp or cliff), and craters from Vesta’s mysterious north polar region. This compels us to take another close look at Vesta’s marvelous atlas.

An atlas of the asteroid Vesta, created from images taken during the Dawn mission’s low altitude mapping orbit (LAMO), is accessible for the public to explore online.  The set of maps was created from mosaics of 10,000 images from Dawn’s framing camera (FC) instrument, taken at an altitude of about 210 kilometers.  The maps are mostly at a scale of 1:200 0000 (1 centimeter = 2 kilometers), about that of regional road maps.

 Vesta's Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) Atlas is at the scale of regional road maps: 1cm = 2 km (1 in = 3 mi).

Vesta’s Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) Atlas is at the scale of regional road maps: 1 cm = 2 km (1 in = 3 mi)

Creating the atlas was a painstaking task – each map sheet of this series used roughly 400 images. The atlas shows how extreme the terrain is on a body the size of Vesta.  In the south pole projection alone, the Severina crater contours reach a depth of 18 kilometers; just over a hundred kilometers away the mountain peak towers 7 kilometers above the ellipsoid reference level.

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12 Jan
Marc Rayman
Marc Rayman
Chief Engineer/ Mission Director, JPL

Another Top Five: Dawn 2013

by Marc Rayman

From Our Chief Engineer

I was delighted to be asked to name my top five accomplishments for the Dawn mission in 2013. This is a very ambitious and exciting interplanetary adventure, exploring some of the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system. Thanks to its advanced ion propulsion system, this is the only spacecraft ever targeted to orbit two extraterrestrial destinations, and it leaves behind a blue-green wisp of xenon ions as it blazes a unique trail in humankind’s efforts to know the cosmos.

2013 was an extremely successful year, and it is not easy to select only five accomplishments (especially for someone as enthusiastic and wordy as I am), but it also was gratifying to review the year. The specific activities in 2013 may not be as obviously spectacular as in some other years, in which the spacecraft left its home planet behind, swooped past Mars on its way to more distant places, maneuvered into orbit around a giant protoplanet, spiraled down to a daringly low altitude for astonishing views, or climbed away from a world it unveiled, breaking free of its gravity to journey elsewhere in the solar system. But the many accomplishments of 2013 are valuable and impressive, and it will be interesting to see what different members of the team choose for their top five. Here are mine:

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft at the giant asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.

Artist’s concept of Dawn thrusting with its ion engine over a view of the actual rugged surface of the giant protoplanet Vesta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

1)     Delivery of large volumes of richly detailed observations of Vesta with the science camera, the gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer, and the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer to the repository used by the scientific community (the Planetary Data System, or PDS). We went to Vesta to collect these data, and now they are available for use by scientists (and the public) around the world for generations to come, ensuring there will continue to be many wonderful discoveries about this fascinating, complex protoplanet. (The gravity measurements will be available at the PDS in 2014.) For a summary of some of Dawn’s findings at Vesta, which is more closely related to Earth and the other terrestrial planets than to typical asteroids, see the January 2013 Dawn Journal.

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1 Jan

Six of Dawn’s Top 2013

by Chris Russell

From our Principal Investigator, Chris Russell

As 2013 drew to a close, we asked the Dawn team to choose their top stories or news from the Dawn mission in 2013 and received some compelling responses. Over the next several weeks, more top choices will be coming your way. We are beginning with principal investigator Chris Russell’s perspective.

It is often hard to ascribe dates to projects that extend across year boundaries, but here are six great contributions from Dawn in 2013.

colorized image of Aelia crater

Assigning colors to different wavelengths of light revealed not only geological structures invisible to the naked eye, but landscapes of incomparable beauty. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLAMPS/DLR/IDA

1. Dawn Objectives at Ceres
Plans were developed allowing Dawn to achieve all its level 1 objectives within its technical resources at Ceres and NASA agreed with these plans.
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2. Color Illuminates Vesta
Another important achievement in 2013 was the improvement in the color images from Dawn. The framing camera team assigned colors to different wavelengths of light and, in the process, revealed in unprecedented detail not only geological structures that are invisible to the naked eye, but also landscapes of incomparable beauty. Researchers at Max Planck led by Andreas Nathues can now see structures such as melts from impacts, craters buried by quakes and foreign material brought by space rocks.

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12 Jul

A Dawn Participating Scientist’s Story

by David Blewett

It has been a tremendous privilege to be involved in the Dawn mission. I was invited to join the team in 2010, a member of the cadre of Participating Scientists NASA provided to help synthesize the fascinating data being returned from Vesta during the 14 months the spacecraft orbited the protoplanet in 2011 and 2012.

Vesta is an intermediate-sized solar system body, between larger planetary objects like the Moon, and small asteroids like those that have been visited by other spacecraft (Gaspra, Ida, Matilda, Lutetia, Eros, etc.). It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. For me, the most exciting results from the Vesta phase of the mission are: 1.  the general appearance of Vesta, and 2. findings related to one of my specific areas of research interest, Dawn’s investigation of the nature of surface modification on Vesta—or how the giant asteroid’s surface has changed over time.

Global mosaic of Vesta as taken by Dawn's Framing Camera

Global mosaic of Vesta as taken by Dawn’s Framing Camera

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