Seven years of discovery

While the Shuttle launches and the International Space Station get the media attention I am always impressed by the deep space research that is quietly going on.

This weekend NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will (hopefully) go into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. This photo of Vesta was taken by the spacecraft last weekend.

With a diameter of about 500 km Vesta is the second largest asteroid in the solar system. Dawn will spend one year orbiting Vesta and will then travel to the largest asteroid (1000 km diameter) Ceres. There it will spend 5 months in orbit carrying out similar studies.

Because these asteroids may have remained intact since formation of the solar system they should reveal information dating back to that time. They also have differences (Vesta formed a few million years before Ceres) which will also be illuminating.

This diagram shows the trajectory of Dawn’s trip, together with dates.

See also:
Dawn Spacecraft Poised to Enter Orbit at Vesta Asteroid: Scientific American.
All eyes on Vesta
Looming Larger: Dawn Approaches Vesta, Enters Orbit July 15-16

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3 responses to “Seven years of discovery

  1. I love space science! Makes me wish I had studied physics and cosmology. I might still do that…

    It’s a bit of a travesty what the American government is doing to the James Webb space telescope. I know it’s not over yet but lets face it, the odds are not in favour of NASA finishing it, which is such a shame considering how close it is and how much awesome science we can get out of it.

    Tax the rich! Do the science!


  2. Excellent project into finding out the last remaining mysteries on the formation of the solar system. Any more data on Ceres will be particularly interesting!


  3. Hi Ken,
    Have you had a look at the subject of Helium 3 on the moon? I saw some articles and videos talking about the prospect of mining this stuff and bringing it back to earth as an energy source. Looks pretty fascinating stuff



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