Vesta the Giant Asteroid

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has taken some photographs of the asteroid Vesta.  It is a 500 kilometer wide asteroid that has been kind enough not to stop by and wipe us all out (it is orbiting well beyond Mars).

Dawn will also take advantage of a window into Vesta’s interior, notes Christopher Russell, lead scientist of the mission and a geophysicist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996 revealed an impact crater 13 kilometres deep, gouged into the asteroid at its south pole. Dawn will peer into that hole to discern any geological diversity exposed by the impact. Three types of meteorite found on Earth — eucrites, howardites and diogenites — are thought to be chips of Vesta, blasted away by the collision. Linking these convenient specimens to particular internal layers of Vesta is a key driver of the Dawn mission, notes Binzel.

I love that we have a spacecraft taking pictures of asteroids way out in space.

via Nature News Blog

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