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This image, one of the first obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in its low altitude mapping orbit, shows an area within the Rheasilvia basin in the south polar area of the giant asteroid Vesta. Image credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ UCLA/ MPS/ DLR/ IDA

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system’s early history.

At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

Those ripples almost look like the result of conchoidal fracturing, but can’t be. Compression? Early melting?

Read all about it here.

Comments

  1. #1 antoniseb
    December 21, 2011

    It looks a lot like the close ups of Eros … except for those ripples (dunes?). My first guess is that Vesta has some vibrational resonances, and when it got whacked last, the dust distributed itself along these lines, but I have no numbers or simulations to back that idea up.

  2. #2 joemac53
    December 22, 2011

    Hey, did the Face on Mars move to Vesta? There goes the neighborhood!

  3. #3 Filmekani
    December 24, 2011

    very nice article :)

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