9 January 2011: Dawn is now just 7.5 million km from Vesta

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dawn is now a nice round 0.05 AU from Vesta, which works out to about 7.5 million km. The two are so close that they have begun to overlap on the current location image:

As always, we now get to see the distance between Dawn and Vesta as compared with Rosetta and 21 Lutetia when it was at 900 000 km, as that was the distance that this image was taken. The last post was written a month ago at a distance of 11 million km.

The current distance looks like this:

That's just 8 times farther away than when the first photograph of 21 Lutetia was taken, and 20 times farther than the Moon. A picture taken from Dawn at this moment probably looks like a few pixels by now. Still a ways to go before it can send us back anything as close to impressive as the images the HST has sent us:

In other Vesta news, we already know a bit more about the asteroid / small world's internal structure thanks to an asteroid known as 1999 AT10. This is also one of the reasons why Vesta is particularly interesting even compared to other bodies several hundreds of km in diameter - it is one of the few bodies in the Solar System that we have physical samples for, so the more we know about Vesta the more we will understand them, and vice versa.

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