|September 27, 2007: As the sun rises, Dawn is carried aloft by a Delta II rocket at pad 17-B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.|
|In this artist concept, Dawn is shown traveling among the asteroids. Each of the solar panels providing power measures 8 feet by 27 feet.|
|NASA's Dawn spacecraft approaches orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta on July 24, 2011. This photo was taken from a distance of about 3,200 miles.|
The surface of Vesta contains a wide variety of composition and patterns – including material that was at one time molten and beneath the asteroid’s surface. There are rocks apparently fused by collisions encountered in the asteroid’s travels, as well as smooth surface areas described by JPL scientists as “pond-like.”
Vesta is a frigid asteroid, with Dawn measuring temperatures ranging from minus 10 to minus 150 Fahrenheit – demonstrating how much of a role illumination from the sun can alter temperatures without atmospheric considerations.
So what’s next for Dawn? The explorer will continue work at Vesta, swooping to within 130 miles of the asteroid’s surface, until August 26. Then it’s off to Ceres, with arrival planned for February, 2015.
For more on Dawn and the incredible scientific discoveries being revealed by this vehicle, please visit NASA’s mission page at: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn