Dawn is now just 34 million km away from 4 Vesta

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Checking the current location of the Dawn probe you can see that it's now 0.2283 AU away from 4 Vesta, which works out to 34 million km. 34 million km is touch to imagine but luckily we have Rosetta's encounter last month with the asteroid 21 Lutetia to provide some perspective. 21 Lutetia is the largest asteroid we have encountered thus far, with a diameter of 100 km. For comparison, 4 Vesta has a diameter of 530 km.

The first image released from the Rosetta probe of the asteroid was this one at 900,000 km, over twice the distance from Earth to the Moon.


So let's transpose this on a map showing the size of these two bodies to scale, along with their distance from the probe. You'll want to click on the image to see it in greater detail, but even without doing so you can get an idea. The tiny thing there on the top says 'probe' and that's the location of the probe. The next dot represents the size and distance of 21 Lutetia, when it was 900,000 km away. That dot at the bottom there is 4 Vesta, much larger but also 38 times farther away...but still not a tremendous distance anymore. Due to Dawn's extremely slow approach (it won't enter orbit around Vesta for almost a year) that means that within perhaps six months it will be at a fairly good distance to provide the public with some precious eye candy.

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