Friday, July 15, 2011

Dawn Closing on Vesta

The Dawn spacecraft is on final approach to the solar system's second largest asteroid Vesta. Dawn is due to arrive at 1:00 a.m. EDT on July 16. Launched in 2007, it has taken four years of careful maneuvering to arrive at Vesta.

Located 117 million miles from Earth, Vesta has a circumference of 329 miles - making it second after the dwarf planet Ceres , as the largest object in the asteroid belt.

Once Dawn arrives, it's ion thrusters will park it at an altitude of almost 10k miles above Vesta's surface. While it is there, Dawn will use a gamma-ray detector and a neutron detector to study the Vesta's surface.

Dawn will remain at Vesta for a year, then it will again fire its' ion thrusters to start moving towards Ceres.

Below is video from containing NASA video and animation of Dawn's Vesta mission.


Dave Tackett said...

Very cool. Even though I'm much more interested in the second part of the mission, Vesta is interesting as it is a good representative of the upper end of sub-dwarf-planet objects (asteroids and kuiper belt objects).

Still waiting for 2015 - the year of the dwarf-planets (Ceres and Pluto)

Beam Me Up said...

Same here Dave. Both will be interesting, but I really want a look a Ceres.....four more years though....