Newest image of Vesta taken from just 100,000 km

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Yesterday a new image of Vesta was released from Dawn that I intended to write about but ran out of time for. It is the first image sent back that shows true, unadulterated detail of the protoplanet's surface with hardly any guesswork. It looks like this:

At the centre towards the bottom we have a clear mountain (easy way to tell if it's a mountain and not a crater - check the shade. The craters have shade on the right side, but here it's the opposite) visible, and according to speculation on it looks to be something like 35 km in height, which works out to about four times the height of Mt. Everest. Surface gravity on Vesta, however, is just 2.2% that of Earth, and the mountain is also quite wide so the slope is not that great either (Olympus Mons is another mountain with a great height but very gradual slope).

A user on the forum there also tried altering the image to make the features more visible:

User-generated pictures should of course always be taken with a grain of salt, since there is no guarantee that certain details have not been altered in the wrong way. I do prefer it to the first one though.

Current distance: just 42,000 km, or about three times the diameter of Earth. Almost ten times closer than the moon is to the Earth. Arrival will take place in just a few days.


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