Call it a giant asteroid. Call is a planetoid. Scientists call it Vesta–a 300 mile wide celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that, in some ways, bares a striking resemblance to a rocky planet like Earth. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Vesta since July 2011 collecting data and taking photographs.
Last week, scientists released a bevy of images and information about Vesta, including data confirming that Vesta is indeed structured like a planet with an iron core and that it separated into layers (crust, mantle, etc.) as it formed. (For more information about the structure of our own planet, see our module on Earth’s Structure.) Vesta’s topography is also quite varied, exhibiting landslides, craters, and a mountain twice the height of Mt. Everest. Using data from Dawn, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created this ethereal virtual tour of Vesta’s surface.
Written by Christine Hoekenga
Christine is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist, specializing in science and nature. She holds an Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Media Studies and a Master's of Science Writing. She has been working in science communication and education for nearly a decade as a journalist, an organizer for conservation groups, and a museum educator. Before joining the Visionlearning team, she served as the New Media and Online Community Manager for the Webby award-winning Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Christine is assisting Visionlearning with developing new modules and glossary terms, managing the blog, and outreach through social media.