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The Dawn Cometh: NASA Nabs First Image of Asteroid Vesta

asteroid-vesta-nasa-dawn.jpg
This image shows the first, unprocessed image obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of the giant asteroid Vesta in front of a background of stars. It was obtained by Dawn's framing camera on May 3, 2011, from a distance of about 1.2 million kilometers (750,000 miles). Vesta is inside the white glow at the center of the image. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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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."

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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.