10 August 2010

Vestal Directions

Two weeks ago I received the news that, after a rigorous competition, I was selected to be one of a several new members of the DAWN mission to Vesta and Ceres!  Woo Hoo!  It's really a pleasure and honor to be part of this flight, the first detailed exploration of what are now termed "dwarf planets," which is just another name for the larger members of the two belts of small planetoids that orbit between Mars and Jupiter and beyond Neptune.  (I am also part of the New Horizons mission to "dwarf planet" Pluto in 2015, so maybe this is fitting.)  I will be working on cratering studies of Vesta, which is of some importance because several small asteroids and the eucrite meteorites all appear to have been knocked off of Vesta in impact collisions in the past.  We won't get to Vesta until next summer, so I won't have much to report on until then, when we start getting high-resolution images.  But there is always something exciting about seeing a world for the first time, and while the new images of the asteroid Lutetia we saw on-line last month are excellent, this will be the first time we will see the larger asteroids, worlds that may have been capable of generating molten rock and volcanic flows on the surface.  Should be exciting indeed.

NASA/ESA views of Ceres and Vesta from the Hubble Space telescope.  Not much surface detail except for the patches of bright and colored materials, some of which are likely impact craters, and the distorted shape of vesta, due to the large south polar crater that has been identified there.  

Dawn mission website:  http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

1 comment:

Luke said...

Congrats on the selection, Paul!