Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Video: Virtual Tour of Vesta Asteroid with Data from NASA's Dawn Spacecraft

Call it a giant asteroid. Call is a planetoid. Scientists call it Vesta--a 300 mile wide celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that, in some ways, bares a striking resemblance to a rocky planet like Earth. NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Vesta since July 2011 collecting data and taking photographs.

Last week, scientists released a bevy of images and information about Vesta, including data confirming that Vesta is indeed structured like a planet with an iron core and that it separated into layers (crust, mantle, etc.) as it formed. (For more information about the structure of our own planet, see our module on Earth's Structure.) Vesta's topography is also quite varied, exhibiting landslides, craters, and a mountain twice the height of Mt. Everest. Using data from Dawn, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory created this ethereal virtual tour of Vesta's surface.

Video Courtesy: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

For more information, check out NASA's Dawn news page or some of the widespread media coverage from the New York Times, Nature, and the LA Times, among others.

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