June 8, 2012 — Vesta, the newly revealed protoplanet being studied by NASA's Dawn probe, is shrouded in a rich tapestry of minerals. No matter that the colors are too subtle for human eyes to discern. This visualization, released Wednesday, shows the mineral variations within the context of Vesta's topography.
The image is part of a high-resolution, false-color animated video over a three-dimensional model of Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt. You can watch the full NASA video here
Scientists still are working out the details of Vesta's surface composition, but the orange in this image is where material was excavated out by an impact. Green shows the relative abundance of iron.
Dawn, which arrived last July, is in the process of moving closer to Vesta for a final round of studies from an orbital perch some 420 miles above the 330-mile wide asteroid. The spacecraft is scheduled to depart on Aug. 26 and head off to explore the largest body in the asteroid belt, the dwarf planet Ceres.
-- by Irene Klotz