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NASA posts photo 'road map' of giant asteroid Vesta

Sept. 16, 2013 at 5:33 PM   |   Comments

PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- NASA says a photographic atlas of the giant asteroid Vesta, created by the agency's Dawn unmanned space probe as it circled the protoplanet, can be seen online.

The maps are mostly at a scale about that of regional road maps of Earth, with every inch of map equivalent to a little more than 3 miles of asteroid, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported.

The atlas was created from mosaics of 10,000 images taken by Dawn's framing camera instrument at a low altitude of about 130 miles from the surface of the asteroid, which has a diameter of about 326 miles, researchers said.

"Creating the atlas has been a painstaking task -- each map sheet of this series has used roughly 400 images," researcher Thomas Roatsch, who presented the images at the European Planetary Science Congress 2013 in London, said.

"The atlas shows how extreme the terrain is on a body the size of Vesta. In the south pole projection alone, the Severina crater contours reach a depth of 11 miles; just over 60 miles away, the mountain peak towers about 4 miles high."

The Vesta images can be views online at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia17480.

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