The Dawn spacecraft continues to travel around the large asteroid Vesta, getting better and better pictures of the surface from its low altitude orbit and yes, it does in fact look like a giant lump of rock. Scientists are hoping to get some sort of data from Vesta that might fill in our picture of the days of the early solar system.
At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.
The images were returned to Earth on Dec. 13. Dawn scientists plan to acquire data in the low-altitude mapping orbit for at least 10 weeks. The primary science objectives in this orbit are to learn about the elemental composition of Vesta’s surface with the gamma ray and neutron detector and to probe the interior structure of the asteroid by measuring the gravity field.