Friday, July 15, 2011

Does Asteroid Vesta Have a Moon?

Does Asteroid Vesta Have a Moon? - NASA Science

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is closing in on Vesta, and from now until the ion-powered spacecraft goes into orbit in mid-July, every picture of the giant asteroid will be the best one ever taken. What will researchers do with this unprecedented clarity?
"For starters," says Dawn chief engineer Marc Rayman, "we're going to look for an asteroid moon."
You might think of asteroids as isolated bodies tumbling alone through space, but it's entirely possible for these old "loners" to have companions. Indeed, 19-mile-wide Ida, 90-mile-wide Pulcova, 103-mile-wide Kalliope, and 135-mile-wide Eugenia each have a moon. And 175-mile-wide Sylvia has two moons. Measuring 330 miles across, Vesta is much larger than these other examples, so a "Vesta moon" is entirely possible.