NASa has released a 3D video created using images from Dawn, the NASA spacecraft which made its first orbit of asteroid Vesta in July and August 2011.
The images were taken at an altitude above the asteroid of 2,700km (1,700 miles). The video begins with a global view of Vesta from the plane of its equator, showing the equatorial band of ridges and troughs. The virtual tour of the asteroid also takes in some young craters in the northern hemisphere as well as a massive mountain at the south pole that is twice the height of Mount Everest.
Vesta is the second most massive object in the asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn is currently making its way down to its ‘mapping orbit’, about 210km (130 miles) above the asteroid’s surface.
“Dawn’s data thus far have revealed the rugged topography and complex textures of the surface of Vesta, as can be seen in this video,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Kaboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Soon, we’ll add other pieces of the puzzle such as the chemical composition, interior structure, and geologic age to be able to write the history of this remnant protoplanet and its place in the early solar system.”