Vesta is the second largest object in the main asteroid belt (after Ceres), with a mass of 259 million gigatonnes and an average diameter of 530 km. Vesta orbits the sun every 3.63 years, at an average distance of 2.36 AU, (2.36 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun).
The Dawn Space Probe has been orbiting Vesta since July 2011, gathering data and beaming images back to Earth, which has enabled scientists to build up a map of the surface of the asteroid, and start to understand the processes shaping its surface.
Quadrangle map of Vesta. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
The rim of a crater near Vesta's equator, in an area known as the Numisia Quadrangle. The crater is apparently quite recent, with signs of collapse around the rim. The light colour implies minerals that have recently (in geological terms) been exposed, over time the Sun's radiation will darken them. Taken on 18 December 2011 from a distance of 272 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Impact crater in the Sextilia Quadrangle of Vesta’s southern hemisphere, surrounded by a number of dark marks. These are thought to be the result of the impact of a carbon rich meteor. Image taken on 8 January 2012 from a distance of 210 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Rim of Marcia Crater in Vesta's northern hemisphere. Mozaic made from two images taken on 21 December 2011 and 5 January 2012 from distances of 130 and 210 km respectively. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
The wider area around Marcia Crater, showing darker patches caused by ejecta from the impact event. Mozaic made up of a number of images taken between 11 and 16 October 2011, from an average distance of 680 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Part of the wall of the Rheasilvia Impact Basin, a 500 km diameter feature that dominates Vesta's southern hemisphere. Taken on 27 December 2011 from a distance of 210 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Young crater within the Rheasilvia Impact Basin, about 15 km in diameter. Image taken on 21 December 2011 from a distance of 210 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Part of the interior of the Rheasilvia Impact Basin, showing signs of rocks having flowed, as a result of an impact. Image taken on 18 December 2011 from a distance of 210 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Severina Crater in the Rheasilvia Quadrangle. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
Ancient crater in the Oppia Quadrangle. The rim is degraded by a large number of smaller, more recent events. Image taken from a distance of 272 km. NASA/JPL/CalTech.
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