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

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.