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Stunning Video! Dawn – One Year at Asteroid Vesta

Landslides in Marcia crater. Marcia is a 58-kilometre diameter crater near Vesta's equator. The topography of the crater is a bit unusual, as it does not have the typical bowl shape, like that of a crater on the Moon. This is likely the result of mass movements in the interior of the crater. Material from Marcia's right edge slid to its interior, forming a shallower slope. The image shows details up to a size of 70 meters. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on its way to Ceres, the largest asteroid to be explored.

This asteroid probe is leaving behind a legacy of exploration – by circling asteroid Vesta since July 2011. But now the spacecraft has been gradually leaving its orbit around that object and make a beeline to the dwarf planet Ceres.

Thanks to a German camera system onboard, close-up inspection of Vesta has been completed, and used to produce a distinctive video. The unique look at Vesta comes courtesy of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin and the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering in Braunschweig.

From the more than 28,000 images acquired by Dawn between July 2011 and August 2012, DLR scientists computed a global digital surface model of Vesta to create a virtual flight over Vesta. The animation was computed by DLR using the highest resolution images acquired on this mission, and shows details down to a size of just 70 meters.

Check out the giant impact crater on the asteroid’s south pole; deep grooves around its equator; dark material on the craters that puzzles planetary researchers; and a mountain more than twice the height of Mount Everest.

With the flight to Ceres, the largest asteroid discovered to date — recently granted the status of “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union — a new chapter in the Dawn mission is opening.

For the first time, a spacecraft will leave the orbit of one body to fly to another one and observe it from an orbital position.

Arrival date: February 2015. At that time Dawn will have reached 415 million kilometers from the Sun.

Check out a range of video and image products, thanks to DLR.

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By Leonard David


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