A new image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is the first ever from the surface of Mars to show an asteroid, and it shows two: Ceres and Vesta.
These two — the largest and third-largest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — are the destinations of NASA’s Dawn mission. Dawn orbited Vesta in 2011 and 2012, and is on its way to begin orbiting Ceres next year. Ceres is a dwarf planet, as well as an asteroid.
Ceres and Vesta appear as short, faint streaks in a 12-second exposure taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on April 20, 2014, PDT (April 21, UTC). An annotated version of the image, also including insets from other observations the same night, is online at:
“This imaging was part of an experiment checking the opacity of the atmosphere at night in Curiosity’s location on Mars, where water-ice clouds and hazes develop during this season,” said camera team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station. “The two Martian moons were the main targets that night, but we chose a time when one of the moons was near Ceres and Vesta in the sky.”