We’re getting closer. The latest image from the Dawn spacecraft taken on June 14 at a distance of 165,000 miles shows a few more details on Vesta, including, dare I suggest, the outline of a crater at upper left.
One rather odd thing about the Dawn website is their description of Vesta. The writers refer to it as a protoplanet, which is confusing at best. I’ll be sticking with asteroid.
Protoplanets grew to become planets in the early solar system through the process of collision and gravitational attraction with other protoplanets. Once upon a time, Earth was a protoplanet, but it swept enough enough material to become to planet we cherish today.Vesta and the other large rocky bodies that currently reside in the asteroid belt escaped this process and remained unincorporated, freely-orbiting asteroids. While they may have been potential protoplanets long ago, they’re not anymore. Or am I missing something?
We got exactly one half-hour of clear skies last night, our first sight of the stars since early last week. I quickly set up my scope for a look at supernova 2011 dh in the Whirlpool Galaxy also known as M51.
Wow! It just keeps getting brighter. At magnitude 12.3, it’s even easy to see in a 6-inch telescope. The stellar explosion is still rising in brightness since its discovery on May 31, taking its sweet time to peak out. Will it grow brighter yet? Of the 388 supernovae reported thus far this year, it’s the brightest of the bunch and a real standout now in the outer spiral arm of the galaxy.
In just a few hours, the European resupply freighter Johannes Kepler will dive into the atmosphere over a remote area of the Pacific Ocean and burn up in a spectacular display. The craft undocked from the International Space Station yesterday carrying 2,600 lbs. of trash.
Kepler arrived at the space station with 3,500 lbs. of cargo plus refuelling propellant and oxygen back in February. Now it returns with unneeded refuse which will burn up harmlessly during re-entry. To read more about Kepler, please click HERE.
Interestingly, the craft carries its own “black box” that will record information on temperatures, accelerations and tumble rates as it breaks apart in the atmosphere.