Feeds

First snap of giant asteroid Vesta from orbiting probe

NASA ion-engine craft Dawn surveys juggernaut of space

Security for virtualized datacentres

NASA's Dawn asteroid hunter has returned the first photo of Vesta since achieving orbit around the giant object at the end of last week.

The snap (big version here) was grabbed at a distance of 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometres), and shows Vesta's impressive 530 kilometre (330 mile) diameter bulk beginning to come into focus.

Dawn's image of Vesta. Pic: NASA

Vesta is the second largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with only Ceres surpassing it in size. While NASA notes that it has been observed with ground-based telescopes for a couple of centuries, and more recently the Hubble Space Telescope, Dawn offers the first opportunity for scientists to get up close.

Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, enthused: "Dawn slipped gently into orbit with the same grace it has displayed during its years of ion thrusting through interplanetary space. It is fantastically exciting that we will begin providing humankind its first detailed views of one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system."

Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator at the University of California, said: "We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the solar system. This region of space has been ignored for far too long. So far, the images received to date reveal a complex surface that seems to have preserved some of the earliest events in Vesta's history, as well as logging the onslaught that Vesta has suffered in the intervening eons."

Vesta shows signs of having taken one very substantial knock during this onslaught, a collision which gouged a substantial crater out of its southern pole. The debris from this impact is believed to account for a round five per cent of meteorites which fall to Earth.

Dawn will now spend three weeks on its "approach phase" to Vesta, during which scientists will "continue a search for possible moons around the asteroid; obtain more images for navigation; observe Vesta's physical properties; and obtain calibration data".

The spacecraft will eventually approach to within 120 miles (200 kilometres) of the asteroid's surface. After a year, it will head off to a 2015 close encounter with Ceres. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.