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

Seven Steps to Software Security

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. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
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
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
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.
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.