Feeds

First snap of giant asteroid Vesta from orbiting probe

NASA ion-engine craft Dawn surveys juggernaut of space

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.