Dawn Confirms, Adds to Telescope Studies of Asteroids

Tantalized by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check earlier conclusions. A new study involving Dawn’s observations during that time period demonstrates how this relationship works with Hubble and ground-based telescopes to clarify our understanding of a solar system object.

“Since the vast majority of asteroids can only be studied remotely by ground-based and space-based facilities, confirming the accuracy of such observations using in-situ measurements is important to our exploration of the solar system,” said Vishnu Reddy, the lead author of a paper published recently in the journal Icarus. Reddy is based at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

In the paper, Reddy and other members of Dawn’s framing camera team describe how up-close observations of Vesta (above) have confirmed and provided new insights into more than 200 years of Earth-based observations.

Launched in 2007, Dawn orbited Vesta for more than a year, departing in September 2012. Dawn is now on its way to the dwarf planet Ceres and will arrive there in early 2015.

Dawn’s framing cameras were developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering in Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR and NASA.

For more on Dawn and Vesta, see the NASA press release.

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