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NASA's UCLA-led Dawn mission shows protoplanet's surprising surface

When UCLA's Christopher T. Russell looks at the images of the protoplanet Vesta produced by NASA's Dawn mission, he talks about beauty as much as he talks about science.
Dawn has been orbiting Vesta and collecting data on the protoplanet's surface since July 2011. Vesta, which is in the doughnut-shaped asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is currently some 321 million miles from Earth.
The journal Science publishes six papers about Vesta on May 11. Russell is a co-author on all of them.

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NASA Dawn Mission Reveals Secrets of Large Asteroid

Meteorites from Vesta
  • Mineral Diversity at Vesta's South Pole
  • Touring Vesta's Craters
  • Dawn's Virtual Flight over Vesta
  • Vesta in Perspective
  • Vesta's Internal Structure
  • South Pole Vistas

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has provided researchers with the first orbital analysis of the giant asteroid Vesta, yielding new insights into its creation and kinship with terrestrial planets and Earth's moon.
Vesta now has been revealed as a special fossil of the early solar system with a more varied, diverse surface than originally thought. Scientists have confirmed a variety of ways in which Vesta more closely resembles a small planet or Earth's moon than another asteroid. Results appear in today's edition of the journal Science.

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Canuleia crater
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IOTD-205-Canuleia_page.jpg


This Dawn framing camera (FC) image of Vesta shows Canuleia crater, which is the large, irregularly shaped crater in the top left of the image. Canuleia's average diameter is roughly 11 kilometers but it is clear in this image that the diameter running from top to bottom is larger than the diameter running from left to right. Other interesting features of Canuleia include the diffuse bright material that is both inside and outside of its rim and the ridges and gullies around its rim. Also striking is the patch of dark material, with a rounded end, that is located inside and outside of the crater's bottom left quadrant. Surrounding Canuleia are the distinctive curved grooves and ridges of Vesta's southern hemisphere.

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Vesta
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Press conference - Dawn's closest look at Vesta

NASA's Dawn mission recently revealed a diversity of geologic features and unexpected details on the surface of Vesta, providing clues on the history of this giant asteroid and on the beginning of the Solar System. The spacecraft is now in its closest orbit around Vesta, the low-altitude mapping orbit. In this late-April press conference, researchers will present the results of the low-altitude phase of science observations, including new high-resolution data from the Italian Visible and Infrared Spectrometer and the German Framing Camera. The panel will discuss, for the first time, the findings from these instruments and will also present results on the relation between gravity and topography for Vesta.
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Giant asteroid Vesta 'resembles planet'

The giant asteroid Vesta possesses many features usually associated with rocky planets like Earth, according to data from a Nasa probe.
Vesta has been viewed as a massive asteroid, but after studying the surface in detail, scientists are describing it as "transitional".

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Dawn Sees New Surface Features on Giant Asteroid



NASA's Dawn spacecraft has revealed unexpected details on the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta. New images and data highlight the diversity of Vesta's surface and reveal unusual geologic features, some of which were never previously seen on asteroids.
These results were discussed today at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at The Woodlands, Texas.

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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved new names for twenty one craters on Vesta.

Aelia for a 4.3-km-wide crater located at -14.2S, 140.7E.
The feature was named in honour of Aelia Oculata a Roman vestal virgin.

Antonia for a 17.4-km-wide crater located at -58.9S, 200.8E.
The feature was named after a famous Roman woman, daughter of M. Antonius and Octavia.

Aquilia for a 36.8-km-wide crater located at -49.7S, 41E.
The feature was named in honour of Julia Aquilia Severa a Roman vestal virgin.

Arruntia for a 11.2-km-wide crater located at 39.4N, 71.6E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Canuleia for a 11.2-km-wide crater located at-33.7S, 294.5 E.
The feature was named in honour of one of the first Roman vestal virgins.

Drusilla for a 21-km-wide crater located at -15.1S, 261.4E.
The feature was named after Julia a famous Roman woman, second daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina.

Eusebia for a 26-km-wide crater located at -42.2S, 204.5E.
The feature was named in honour of a famous Roman woman, second wife of Constantius II..

Fabia for a 12-km-wide crater located at 15.6N, 265.9E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Justina for a 7-km-wide crater located at -34.4S, 317.9E.
The feature was named in honour of a famous Roman woman, second wife of Emperor Valentinian.

Laelia for a 9.2-km-wide crater located at -46.8S, 140.5E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Lepida for a 44-km-wide crater located at 16.7N, 306.8E.
The feature was named in honour of a Roman vestal virgin.

Licinia for a 23.8-km-wide crater located at 23.5N, 17.4E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Occia for a 7.2-km-wide crater located at -15.4S, 18.4E.
The feature was named in honour of a Roman vestal virgin.

Octavia for a 30-km-wide crater located at -3.3S, 147E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Publicia for a 15.9-km-wide crater located at 14.5N, 84.4E.
The feature was named in honour of Flavia Publicia a Roman vestal virgin.

Rubria for a 10-km-wide crater located at -7.4S, 18.4E.
The feature was named after a Roman vestal virgin.

Scantia for a 20.2-km-wide crater located at 29.5N, 274.6E.
The feature was named in honour of a Roman vestal virgin.

Serena for a 18.6-km-wide crater located at -20.5S, 120.7E.
The feature was named after a Roman noblewoman, niece of Emperor Theodosius.

Sossia for a 8.2-km-wide crater located at -3.4S, 271E.
The feature was named in honour of a Roman vestal virgin.

Teia for a 6.6-km-wide crater located at -28.37S, 304.9E.
The feature was named after Teia Euphrosyne Ruffina a Roman vestal virgin.

Veneneia for a 450-km-wide crater located at -52S, 170E.
The feature was named in honour of one of the first Roman vestal virgins.



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Cratered terrain in Vestas equatorial region

This Dawn FC (framing camera) image shows heavily crater terrain in Vestas equatorial region. The craters have a wide range of sizes and have many different forms, which include fresh, degraded and some that are barely visible because they are so degraded. Generally, it can be assumed that fresh craters are younger than degraded craters and that the barely visible craters are the oldest. A roughly 7 kilometer diameter crater, offset from the center of the image, has some dark material slumping from its rim towards its center. There are many narrow linear grooves running diagonally across the image. These grooves are less than 1 kilometer in width.
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Vesta Likely Cold and Dark Enough for Ice

Though generally thought to be quite dry, roughly half of the giant asteroid Vesta is expected to be so cold and to receive so little sunlight that water ice could have survived there for billions of years, according to the first published models of Vesta's average global temperatures and illumination by the sun.
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Ephemeris

Date       UT      R.A. (J2000) Decl.    Delta     r     El.    Ph.   V
2012 01 03 000000 22 38 08.2 -14 45 37   2.827   2.385   53.9  19.5   8.1
2012 01 04 000000 22 39 45.5 -14 35 22   2.838   2.386   53.4  19.3   8.1
2012 01 05 000000 22 41 22.8 -14 25 04   2.849   2.387   52.8  19.2   8.1
2012 01 06 000000 22 43 00.4 -14 14 44   2.860   2.388   52.2  19.0   8.1
2012 01 07 000000 22 44 38.1 -14 04 21   2.871   2.389   51.6  18.8   8.2
2012 01 08 000000 22 46 15.9 -13 53 55   2.882   2.390   51.0  18.7   8.2
2012 01 09 000000 22 47 53.9 -13 43 27   2.893   2.390   50.4  18.5   8.2
2012 01 10 000000 22 49 32.0 -13 32 57   2.904   2.391   49.9  18.3   8.2
2012 01 11 000000 22 51 10.3 -13 22 24   2.915   2.392   49.3  18.2   8.2
2012 01 12 000000 22 52 48.7 -13 11 49   2.925   2.393   48.7  18.0   8.2
2012 01 13 000000 22 54 27.2 -13 01 11   2.936   2.394   48.1  17.8   8.2
2012 01 14 000000 22 56 05.8 -12 50 31   2.946   2.395   47.6  17.6   8.2
2012 01 15 000000 22 57 44.6 -12 39 49   2.957   2.396   47.0  17.5   8.2
2012 01 16 000000 22 59 23.5 -12 29 05   2.967   2.397   46.4  17.3   8.2
2012 01 17 000000 23 01 02.5 -12 18 19   2.977   2.398   45.9  17.1   8.2
2012 01 18 000000 23 02 41.6 -12 07 30   2.987   2.399   45.3  16.9   8.2
2012 01 19 000000 23 04 20.8 -11 56 40   2.997   2.400   44.7  16.8   8.2
2012 01 20 000000 23 06 00.2 -11 45 48   3.007   2.401   44.1  16.6   8.2
2012 01 21 000000 23 07 39.6 -11 34 53   3.017   2.402   43.6  16.4   8.2
2012 01 22 000000 23 09 19.2 -11 23 57   3.027   2.403   43.0  16.2   8.2
2012 01 23 000000 23 10 58.8 -11 12 59   3.037   2.404   42.4  16.0   8.2


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