Image of the Day: 'Dawn' Orbiter Zeroes in on Arizona-Sized Asteroid Vesta
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December 13, 2011

Image of the Day: 'Dawn' Orbiter Zeroes in on Arizona-Sized Asteroid Vesta

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NASA’s Dawn Asteroid Orbiter successfully zoomed down today to the closest orbit the probe will ever achieve around the giant asteroid Vesta to capture this image on the evening of Nov. 27 PST (early morning Nov. 28, UTC) as it was spiraling down from its high altitude mapping orbit to low altitude mapping orbit. Vesta is the second most massive object in the main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Low altitude mapping orbit is the closest orbit Dawn will be making, at an average of 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the giant asteroid's surface. The framing camera obtained this image of an area in the northern mid-latitudes of Vesta from an altitude of about 140 miles (230 kilometers). Each orbit takes about 4.3 hours.

The spacecraft is orbiting at an average altitude of barely 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the heavily bombarded and mysterious world that emerged from the earliest eons of our solar system some 4.5 Billion years ago.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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