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NASA's Dawn spacecraft begins new Vesta mapping orbit


PASADENA (BNS): NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured a new closer view of the giant asteroid Vesta from the high altitude mapping orbit (HAMO).

In this orbit, the average distance from the spacecraft to the Vesta surface is 420 miles (680 kilometers), which is four times closer than the previous survey orbit.

According to JPL, in survey orbit, it took Dawn three days to make its way around the asteroid while the same task is completed in 12 hours by using HAMO.

HAMO is scheduled to last about 30 Earth days, during which Dawn will circle Vesta more than 60 times. For about 10 of those 30 days, Dawn will peer straight down at the exotic landscape below it during the dayside passages. For about 20 days, the spacecraft will view the surface at multiple angles.

The whole data mapping will help scientists to understand the geological processes that shaped Vesta.

HAMO, the most complex and intensive science campaign at Vesta, has three primary goals: to map Vesta's illuminated surface in colour, provide stereo data, and acquire visible and infrared mapping spectrometer data. In addition, it will allow improved measurements of Vesta's gravity.

Dawn launched in September 2007 and arrived at Vesta in July 2011.These findings about the giant asteroid Vesta will include information about the new coordinate system and official names of Vesta's prominent features.

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