Feeds

Dawn probe slips Vesta's grip, heads for icy dwarf planet

Spacecraft exits orbit of virgin goddess, sets off on 3-year trip to Ceres

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has left the gravitational pull of the giant asteroid Vesta behind after over a year of study and is rocketing towards the dwarf planet Ceres.

The satellite, launched in September 2007, has been exploring and mapping Vesta for the first time, showing agency boffins an exotic and diverse building block of planet that can help them figure out how our solar system was formed.

Dawn pulled away from Vesta easily and is now on its way to Ceres, our inner solar system's only dwarf planet and its largest asteroid. The spacecraft is expected to arrive in early 2015.

"As we respectfully say goodbye to Vesta and reflect on the amazing discoveries over the past year, we eagerly look forward to the next phase of our adventure at Ceres, where even more exciting discoveries await,” said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ceres is a rock-ice body around 950km in diameter, according to what boffins have been able to discover so far. They theorise that the dwarf may have active hydrological processes, giving it seasonal polar caps and/or a thin, permanent atmosphere that distinguishes it from other small planets, and Dawn has been sent to help test these theories.

Boffins also reckon that both Vesta and Ceres could have been budding planets that never got the chance to grow up because of the gravitational stirrings of Jupiter.

Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit a body in the main asteroid belt and its mission is the first to orbit two targets. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.