Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Dawn Mission Video Shows Vesta's Coat of Many Colors

June 8, 2012
Source: NASA/JPL

This still is taken from an animation of Vesta made from images taken with Dawn’s framing camera. Many of the images were taken at different viewing angles to provide stereo for use in determining the topography. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI.A new video from NASA’s Dawn mission reveals the dappled, variegated surface of the giant asteroid Vesta. The animation drapes high-resolution false color images over a three-dimensional model of the Vesta terrain constructed from Dawn’s observations. This visualization enables a detailed view of the variation in the material properties of Vesta in the context of its topography.

The video is available online at

The colors were chosen to highlight differences in surface composition that are too subtle for the human eye to see. Scientists are still analyzing what some of the colors mean for the composition of the surface. But it is clear that the orange material thrown out from some impact craters is different from the surrounding surface material. Green shows the relative abundance of iron. Parts of the huge impact basin known as Rheasilvia in Vesta’s southern hemisphere, for instance, have areas with less iron than nearby areas.

Dawn has imaged the majority of the surface of Vesta with the framing camera to provide this three-dimensional map. While some areas in the north were in shadow at the time the images were obtained by the camera, Dawn expects to improve its coverage of Vesta’s northern hemisphere with additional observations. Dawn’s viewing geometry also prevented mapping of a portion of the mountain of the south pole.

The spacecraft is currently spiraling up from its lowest-altitude orbit into its final science orbit, where its average altitude will be about 420 miles (680 kilometers). Dawn is scheduled to leave Vesta around August 26.

For more information, visit

Dawn:  A Journey to the Beginning of the Solar System

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Last updated June 8, 2012