Archive | September, 2011

The Asteroid Vesta

24 Sep

“Caeser – Adieu! Be happy!

Lepidus – Let all the number of the stars give light

To thy fair way!”in Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare.

Asteroids are small bodies which orbit around the Sun. They can have diameters less than one thousand km, or be meteoroids with just a few centimeters. Ceres, with a diameter of 950 km, is the largest known asteroid, and it was discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Puzzi.

Now, I want to show you a movie of the asteroid Vesta, which is together with Ceres one of the largest asteroid orbiting at the asteroid belt, contributing with a mass of about 9% to the total mass of the asteroid belt. It is possibly a remnant protoplanet with an internal structure. Vesta is more a rocky body, while Ceres is believed to be made of ice.

It was discovered by the great astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (himself an amateur…) on March 29, 1807. As it happened with Olbers, nowadays it is frequent to have new discoveries carried out by amateurs. Some use naked eyes (enough good to observe meteors and aurorae, and in July 4, 1054, AD it was possible to observe with the bare eyes the colossal stellar burst of a supernova), others powerful binoculars (George Alcock, an English schoolmaster, for example, discovered by this mean four comets and three novae), others telescopes equipped with electronics aids such as powerful CCD (charged coupled devices). This last equipment permits the amateur to stay in a cozy environment observing images on a television screen.

The observations of cosmic events have dazzled humanity since the beginning of times. Carving of a crescent moon and star at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico might represent the supernova AD 1054

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres. The long traditions of Germany in optical field is patented in The Dawn framing cameras, developed and built under the guidance of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, the DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig.

See here the movie and get a glimpse of a new world.

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