This image of a dark-rayed impact crater and several dark spots was obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The dark materials are located near an older, larger crater in the Sextilia quadrangle of Vesta's southern hemisphere.
The dark-rayed crater and dark spots may have come from a carbon-rich meteor that broke up and collided with Vesta. Or, the dark-rayed crater could be excavated dark material from under Vesta's surface. Detection of compositional differences among the examples of dark materials will help scientists determine where they came from.
This image was taken by Dawn's framing cameras on January 8, 2012, during the mission's low-altitude mapping orbit (on average 130 miles or 210 kilometers above the surface). This image covers an area of about 200 square miles (450 square kilometers).
The Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The Dawn Framing Cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA/JPL.
More information about the Dawn mission is online at http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.