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Vesta Sighted

11 May 2011, 22:50 UTC
Vesta Sighted
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The Dawn spacecraft has taken its first photograph of asteroid Vesta from a distance of 1.21 million km. Vesta is 530 km in diameter, and still looks like a tiny dot. We are fortunate to have samples from Vesta thanks to the Camel Donga meteorite, which can be seen in the Museum of Natural History. (See Night at the Museum!) Dawn is scheduled to go into orbit around Vesta on July 15, one step in a journey that will rendezvous with Ceres in 2015. Vesta is the second largest asteroid and Ceres is the largest. Ceres has recently been found to contain water; by some estimates more liquid water than Earth!Observations suggest that Ceres is differentiated into core and mantle, which would mean that it was melted early in its history. Ultraviolet observations have found water vapour near Ceres' North Pole. How such a small body could be heated is a complete mystery. The asteroid's 10^{21} kg mass could easily hide a small Black Hole. More than just big rocks, the asteroids are new worlds that could contain Black Holes and even life.

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