June 13, 2011

NASA Releases Animation Of Dawn’s Asteroid Approach

Scientists have created a new video to give a glimpse into the future as NASA's Dawn spacecraft approaches the giant asteroid Vesta.

The video loops 20 images that show a dark feature near Vesta's equator moving from left to right across the field of view as Vesta rotates.

The images were obtained by a framing camera during a 30-minute period and show about 30 degrees of a rotation.

"Like strangers in a strange land, we're looking for familiar landmarks," Jian-Yang Li, a Dawn participating scientist from the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a statement. "The shadowy spot is one of those -- it appears to match a feature, known as 'Feature B,' from images of Vesta taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope."

Dawn will gently slow down to about 75 mph before orbiting Vesta on July 16.  NASA is expected to release more images on a weekly basis, with more frequent images available once the spacecraft begins collecting science at Vesta.

"Vesta is coming more and more into focus," said Andreas Nathues, framing camera lead investigator, based at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany. "Dawn's framing camera is working exactly as anticipated."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Dawn mission.  The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR and NASA.


Image Caption: This still from the movie shows surface details beginning to resolve as NASA's Dawn spacecraft closes in on the giant asteroid Vesta.


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