Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vesta's rugged surface

This image is a computerized rendering of what a hypothetical observer migth see when looking obliquely along the mountains and craters on the giant asteroid Vesta. Of course the Dawn spacecraft is in orbit about Vesta, and thus is always looking down upon the asteroid, so Dawn would never see anything like this. But Dawn has now collected enough measurements of Vesta surface topography to assemble a detailed computer model of the asteroid's surface. With that model, one can then calculate the view that any observer might see when looking in any direction about Vesta. Keep in mind that Vesta is only about 700 miles across, so the more distance mountains shown here would not be seen by that observer; they'd lie below the horizon and thus would be hidden. But that computerized view can be adjusted to remove the asteroid's curvature (ie, flatten the asteroid) while preserving its topography, as is seen here. See the Dawn website for more details about this computerized image of Vesta's rugged surface.

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