“Thrust is engaged, and we are now climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions”

Having arrived at the 530km-wide giant asteroid Vesta in July 2011, in May this year Nasa’s Dawn Mission scientists published some of their findings.  Now Dawn’s ready to head out on the next leg of its journey – Destination [the even larger protoplanet (dwarf planet)] Ceres, ETA 2015.

From the JPL press release

“Thrust is engaged, and we are now climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We are feeling somewhat wistful about concluding a fantastically productive and exciting exploration of Vesta, but now have our sights set on dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn’s orbit provided close-up views of Vesta, revealing unprecedented detail about the giant asteroid. The mission revealed that Vesta completely melted in the past, forming a layered body with an iron core. The spacecraft also revealed the scarring from titanic collisions Vesta suffered in its southern hemisphere, surviving not one but two colossal impacts in the last two billion years. Without Dawn, scientists would not have known about the dramatic troughs sculpted around Vesta, which are ripples from the two south polar impacts.

“We went to Vesta to fill in the blanks of our knowledge about the early history of our solar system,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, based at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). “Dawn has filled in those pages, and more, revealing to us how special Vesta is as a survivor from the earliest days of the solar system. We can now say with certainty that Vesta resembles a small planet more closely than a typical asteroid.”

And, via JPL news, here’s Dawn’s farewell portrait of the giant asteroid Vesta.

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  • Mister_Joe

    Amazing stuff. And, is it just me or can anyone else see a face in the first few frames, two eyes, a nose and a left hand ear?

  • wild turkey


    thanks for this

    the son starts BRA in earnest Monday.(cue outrage from PC egaltarians). his courses include maths, physics and chemistry. this is all a bit daunting for the man.

    he has also seen the various asteroid hits planet earth disaster DVDs. so this post was really helpful in practical way in helping to get across the message to him that maths and physics is not just dry and theoretical but has astounding and exciting fundamental applications.

    again, thanks PB

    oh yeah, message to joe.
    ‘can anyone else see a face in the first few frames, two eyes, a nose and a left hand ear?’

    give me the chance to quaff a six pack of molson ales and then i’ll check it out again.

  • Yip – two eyes, nose and mouth. The brain and its pattern identification 🙂

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