The Dawn Cometh: NASA Nabs First Image of Asteroid Vesta
Vesta is a "giant asteroid" and the taraget of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Today, JPL announced that Dawn's framing cameras have captured images of the asteroid, "which will help fine-tune navigation during its approach."
Some info about Vesta and its location:
The image from Dawn's framing cameras was taken on May 3 when the spacecraft began its approach and was approximately 1.21 million kilometers (752,000 miles) from Vesta. The asteroid appears as a small, bright pearl against a background of stars. Vesta is also known as a protoplanet, because it is a large body that almost formed into a planet.
Dawn still has a way to go to reach Vesta; the spacecraft "is expected to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16, when the asteroid is about 188 million kilometers (117 million miles) from Earth."
Vesta looks small in the image, however, it's actually pretty darn big: "Vesta is 330 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt."
Learn more about Dawn's "Journey to the Asteroid Belt" via NASA.