This mosaic of the surface of Vesta was made from images obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Feb. 5, 2012, while the area was entirely in the sun's shadow. Light reflecting off of other areas of Vesta provides the only illumination. Since Dawn went into orbit around Vesta in July 2011, the asteroid's northern regions have not yet seen direct sunlight. Here we have a glimpse into the shadows and regions that will be better lit as time passes.
This image, obtained by Dawn's framing camera, shows a scene from 52 degrees north latitude and is approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) across. Low-altitude mapping orbit has an average altitude of 130 miles (210 kilometers). This image covers an area of about 240 square kilometers (610 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 .