Thursday, June 07, 2012

Colorful Vesta Video Released June 6

When you have a moment, be sure to check out this NASA-provided link: t.co/XKaez5wG

The link will take you to YouTube and present a 1-minute 27-second video which was just released by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The video is entitled, "Asteroid Vesta's Coat of Many Colors." The animation was created by the Planetary Science Institute and is based on data obtained by Dawn's framing camera from September and October 2011. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MPS / DLR / IDA / PSI

The video animation is based on data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. It starts with high-resolution black and white images of asteroid Vesta, which is wrapped onto a 3-D shape model and rotated. The image then transitions to false-color images of the surface. The surface colors were chosen to highlight differences in surface composition that are too subtle for the human eye to see.

Scientists are still analyzing what some of the colors mean for the composition of the surface. But they are confident that the orange material thrown out from some of the impact craters is different from the other surface material. Also, they note that the green coloration indicates a relative abundance of iron. For example, you may note that parts of the huge Rheasilvia impact basin, in Vesta's southern hemisphere, have less iron than nearby areas.

As noted, the images were obtained using Dawn's framining camera. While some areas in the north were in shadow at the time the images were taken, the Dawn team expects to improve this coverage with additional observations. Dawn's viewing geometry also prevented mapping of a portion of the moutain of the south pole.

The Dawn spacecraft is currently spiraling up from its lowest-altitude orbit into its final science orbit, where its average altitude will be about 420 miles (680 kilometers). Dawn is scheduled to leave asteroid Vesta around August 26 (my birthday) and head toward dwarf planet Ceres.

And now, the mission particulars...

The Dawn mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft. The framing cameras were developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin made significant contributions in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering in Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR and NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about the Dawn mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/dawn and dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .

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