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This Is What It Looks Like Hovering Above An Asteroid

An atlas of the asteroid, Vesta, created from mosaics of 10 000 images from Dawn’s framing camera (FC) instrument, taken during the Dawn Mission’s Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) an altitude of around 135 miles (210 kilometres). Credit: European Space Agency

An atlas of the asteroid, Vesta, created from mosaics of 10 000 images from Dawn’s framing camera (FC) instrument, taken during the Dawn Mission’s Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) an altitude of around 135 miles (210 kilometres). Credit: European Space Agency

Now’s your big chance to get up close and personal with Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system.

A new atlas has been released based on 10,000 images from the Dawn mission‘s framing camera instrument, which took the pictures from an average altitude of about 131 miles (210 kilometers). Each map has a scale of 1 centimetre to 2 kilometres (roughly a scale of 0.4 inches : 1.2 miles).

“Creating the atlas has been a painstaking task – each map sheet of this series has used about 400 images,” stated Thomas Roatsch, who is with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research and led the work.

This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows a close up of part of the rim around the crater Canuleia on the giant asteroid Vesta. Canuleia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter, is the large crater at the bottom-left of this image. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/PSI/Brown

This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows a close up of part of the rim around the crater Canuleia on the giant asteroid Vesta. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/PSI/Brown

“The atlas shows how extreme the terrain is on such a small body as Vesta. In the south pole projection alone, the Severina crater contours reaches a depth of 18 kilometres [11 miles]; just over 100 kilometres [62 miles] away the mountain peak towers 7 kilometres [4.3 miles] above the … reference level.”

You can check out the raw atlas images at this website. The research was presented at the European Planetary Science Conference and also published Sept. 1 at Planetary and Space Science.

Interested in getting involved in Vesta asteroid mapping yourself? A initiative called AsteroidMappers is open to amateur enthusiasts; check out more details in this past Universe Today story.

Source: European Planetary Science Conference

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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