Vesta Picture

Vesta closest approach. Commencing orbital manoevers.

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4 Vesta is the second largest asteroid by mass in the solar system after Ceres and is also the fourth one that was discovered. It is currently under close observation by NASA's Dawn probe, which entered orbit on July 16th, 2011.

It is a slightly ellipsoid asteroid, with an orbital period of approx. 3 years, 7 months and 2 weeks. Its distance from the Sun averages at 2, 35 AU.

The southern hemisphere is dominated by one large crater, called Rheasilvia (who, in mythology, was the mother of Romulus and Remus and a VESTAL virgin). It is 505km in diameter (by comparison, Vesta's diameter is approx. 572km). A lot of asteroids comparable to Vesta in composition are thought to have their origin in this collision. It is central in this picture; its rim can partially be seen.

The Dawn probe will move on later this year to Ceres, the only dwarf planet amongst the asteroid belt, so expect some pictures of Ceres in one or two years.

Picture by Dawn probe.
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