Explore an asteroid with ‘Vesta Trek’

Tour the surface of the second-largest rock in the asteroid belt

Mosaic of Vesta

SPACE ROCK  A colossal mountain on the south pole of Vesta, seen in this mosaic of images from the Dawn spacecraft, is one of the locales to explore in Vesta Trek.

NASA/JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS, DLR, IDA

Budding interplanetary explorers can satisfy their wanderlust with Vesta Trek, a web-based application that lets users explore the asteroid Vesta.

The app uses data from the Dawn spacecraft, which orbited the asteroid from July 2011 to September 2012. Users can overlay maps of geology, mineralogy and abundances of various elements on the second-largest rock in the asteroid belt. The application also provides data to make a 3-D printed model of the asteroid.

The interface to pan and zoom will be familiar to anyone who has used an online map. Armchair cartographers will find tools to measure distances and elevations of the landscapes. At the south pole, for example, is a roughly 19-kilometer-deep pit at the bottom of which sits a mountain more than twice as high as Mount Everest.

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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