Look up And Wonder
18th Jul. 2011 :: Dawn Enters Vesta Orbit

NASA's Dawn spacecraft edged into orbit around Vesta on 16th July. Dawn will spend a year mapping one of the solar system's largest unexplored worlds.

Vesta is in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it has an average diameter of 530 kilometres, and it is estimated to contain 9% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It is however smaller than the dwarf planet Ceres which has a diameter of about 950km, and contains 32% of the mass of the asteroid belt.

Dawn is the first craft to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt so it is certainly a very important first for NASA. The main mission will begin in August with mapping and imagery collections before moving closer to Vesta (120 miles at it's closest approach) for more detailed observations and measurements.

Vesta as seen by Dawn in July 2011 :: NASA Image

By comparison Vesta as seen by Hubble in 2007 :: NASA/ Hubble Image

It is believed that Vesta was one of the earliest bodies to form in the early solar system and therefore expected to hold in it's make-up a record of that early history. Vesta may well be very similar to (or may even been one of) the planetary building blocks which collided and joined to create the Earth and the other rocky solar system planets, making it a highly valuable scientific target.

It's scientific payload includes a camera for scientific imaging of the two targets Ceres and Vesta. A Visible & Infrared Spectrometer (VIR) which accomplishes the mission's scientific and measurement objectives of producing spectral images. A Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRaND) which measures elemental abundances on the surface of Vesta and Ceres. And in addition a gravity science package that allows accurate measurements of the spacecraft's orbit from which scientists can determine the gravity fields of Vesta and Ceres.

Once Dawn's mission at Vesta is complete in July 2012, the crafts ion engines will ignite to propel the spacecraft toward its second destination. After another two-and-half years journeying through the solar system, Dawn will enter orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres in February 2015. The visit to Ceres will make the spacecraft the first to ever orbit two objects in the solar system.

Vesta's size and bright surface make it the brightest asteroid, and it is occasionally visible to the naked eye from dark skies. In May and June 2007, Vesta reached a peak magnitude of +5.4. At that time, opposition and perihelion were only a few weeks apart it was visible in the constellations Ophiuchus and Scorpius.

Vesta will next come to opposition on August 5th 2011, in the constellation of Capricornus at about magnitude 5.6.

Should be interesting to see if anyone can locate and image it.

Comments (0)

No comments yet :(

  • Allowed markup: <a> <i> <b> <em> <u> <s> <strong> <code> <pre> <p>
  • All other tags will be stripped, unless they are in a <pre> (use this for blocks of code)
  • External links will have the rel="nofollow" attribute applied
Astronomy Tools and Information

Solar System Planets
Messier Objects
New General Catalogue (NGC) Objects

Most Recent Posts

The Transit of Venus June 2012
Solar System Planets
Mars and Venus
The Amazing Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
New Rosette Attempt
Short Timelapse Sunset
New Attempt at Processing NGC2246 with PixInsight
A Cold Night
Another Attempt at M1 and NGC2246
Busy Timelapse Skies
Reprocessed Andromeda Galaxy
Its a Steep Learning Curve ~ M1 and NGC2246
Sky Trails
Another Attempt at Andromeda (M31)
The ExoPlanet Count is Likely to Reach Trillions
Tycho Crater
Moon Mosaic
The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
The Pleiades (M45)
Current Exoplanet Count
  • Candidates
  • Confirmed
  • Total
  • 2,321

  • 691

  • 3,012

Currently Popular Astronomy Links

In astronomy, a syzygy defines a situation where at least three bodies are aligned. And one of these will help scientists know Phobos' orbit more precisely.
New planets discovered, by year
Live tracker and live video feed from the ISS.
Binary Supermassive Black Hole System Discovered
Arecibo (Puerto Rico Observatory) detects mysterious signals 4.23.14
For my first post here, I present you the college dew shield.
Discoverer of Luhman-16 does it again. 250K brown dwarf found at 2.2 parsecs from the Sun. (paper is behind a paywall, I'll try to rehost when I get to the office)
Came across this picture in a photography book. Thought you guys might appreciate it.
Attention people of Earth
Two nights ago I took my best ever image of Saturn. Truly the jewel of our solar system.
Can someone explain this blue ring around the edge of the moon? Photo was taken by an iPhone camera through a telescope on the 3rd this month.
I know its not flashy, but I managed to grab a picture of Jupiter tonight! First big milestone for me!
Accidental discovery of ‘upside-down’ planet confirms 1973 prediction
Jupiter along with the four Galilean satellites last night. Europa being the closest.
Mars last night. Even was able to see a polar ice cap.
Panasonic FZ70 - Imgur
NASA IMAX: The Earth - Blue Planet [HD 1080p]
Mysteries of nearby planetary system's dynamics solved
Creationists in my Astronomy class should have learned this by now
The Beautiful Carina Nebula [1920 x 1080]
Eyes on the Sky: April 21 thru April 27

Get relevant, popular links for your website from Here's A Link
Older Posts

The Nebulas in Orion
Hints ot the Higgs
Earth HiRes Animation from Nasa
The World Would Be A Better Place If Everyone Watched This Video At Least Once!
Carl Sagan
The Journey Home. More stunning HD Footage from Nasa...
Amazing High Def Video of Jupiter
Sun Mosaic
November Sun
Full Funding Secured for James Webb Space Telescope!
Photographing Jupiter
Save The James Webb Space Telescope Petition
The Nature of Reality ~ Do We Live in Eight Dimensional Phase Space
Juno Launch Update
More Water Evidence Adds to Intrigue Surrounding Mars
Hubble Continues to Amaze with new Pluto Moon Discovery
Is the James Webb Space Telescope Worth It
JWST Program Status July 2011
Dawn Enters Vesta Orbit
Hail to the King ~ Juno, Jupiter and origins of the Solar System
Free NASA Android App
Happy Birthday Neptune
M51 Supernova SN2011dh
M51 And UFOs
NASA Human Space Flight Strategy
Last Flight of the Space Shuttle
Proposed Cancellation of JWST
A Universe Not Made For Us
The Moon
M31 The Andromeda Galaxy
Total Solar Eclipse, Hao Atoll, South Pacific
M42 The Great Nebula in Orion
Jupiter (IO, Ganymede, Europa, Callisto)
M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy
M13 The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
Sir Patrick Moore
About Me

I am an amateur astronomer; I am interested in science, innovation, astronomy and general musing about philosophies of life, the universe and our place in it.

I love to look up and wonder, and this blog is mostly what results from that wondering.

I also enjoy Paragliding.

All images are copyrighted and owned by me, except where stated, please do not copy or use them unless with permission.

Please feel free to contact me for any reason, the best method is to use this contact form.