This Dawn framing camera (FC) image of Vesta shows a particularly smooth part of the giant asteroid's surface. This area is likely covered in fine-grained regolith material because a covering of fine-grained material usually gives a surface a smooth appearance. However, this surface is not perfectly smooth. There are many grooves running diagonally across the image that are less than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) wide and are up to 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) long. There are also some small, fresh craters. The area in the top left of the image is less smooth, possibly because regolith slumped.
This image is located in Vesta's Tuccia quadrangle, in the southern hemisphere. NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on Dec. 18, 2011. This image was taken through the camera's clear filter. The distance to the surface of Vesta is 272 kilometers (169 miles) and the image has a resolution of about 25 meters (82 feet) per pixel. This image was acquired during the LAMO (low-altitude mapping orbit) phase of the mission.
The Dawn mission to 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 D.C. 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.