Visiting Vesta

There was no space geekout post for quite some time. So naturally, I have quite a bit of a backlog of space discoveries stored up. Here is the thing that was rocking my world for a few weeks now. We have arrived at Vesta!

Well, not we exactly. A small space probe called Dawn did, an extraordinary little machine that uses some brand new ion propulsion technology. The above is a series of images Dawn did. The series was somewhat smoothed-out to create this amazing animation.

Why was Dawn able to make an entire series when most other probes only get deliver individual pictures? Well because Dawn actually went into Vesta’s orbit! This is quite unusual because it is much more complicated and expensive to do. But now Dawn will stay with Vesta for quite some time and do some prime in-depth observations.

So what is Vesta anyway? Well, it’s the second-biggest asteroid in the entire asteroid belt! It’s 530km across! It’s not an asteroid, it’s a small moon. Well, it’s an asteroid alright. But it’s a very, very big one. The biggest we have visited yet. Here is a comparison.


Remember lil old Lutetia up there?

As you can see, Vesta pretty much dwarfs all of the other asteroids, many of which we have been talking about here. But perhaps you want to compare it to something familiar. So here is how Vesta would look next to the Moon.

Vesta 2

Disclaimer: For illustration purposes only. Might be inaccurate. Let me know if you think it is.

So there you go. It’s pretty much a small moon. Each of the craters you see on it is as big as an entire city. But of course, the gravity on it would be pretty negligible.

But we aren’t landing there yet. There are much more fundamental questions about it we need to get to the bottom of first. Vesta appears to have quite some history. Especially at it’s south pole is a huge mountain. You can see it exactly in the middle of the first image. It’s probably one of the largest mountains in the Solar System and it resulted from one of the largest recorded impacts in the history of the Solar System. Something smacked Vesta real good and pretty much defined what we see today. For starters, the streaks on it’s side probably resulted from that huge impact. But even more importantly, the impact crated a whole class of smaller asteroids called the Vesta Family. They spread all over the Solar System and they still make up 6% of the Asteroid Belt. Some of them might even crashed on Earth. There is good evidence that suggest a certain type of Meteorites are debris from the Vesta impact.

So as you can see, a lot happened on Vesta. The Asteroid had a huge impact (pun intended) on the slice of space we live in. And now we finally have eyes and ears right there where everything happened. Exciting!

But if you think this is it, think again. Dawn will eventually leave Vesta and go on to visit Ceres – the single, biggest asteroid we know about. The only asteroid even bigger than Vesta. It’s so big even the scientist didn’t feel comfortable calling it “Asteroid”. So they called it “Dwarf Planet”. All this on the next episode of The Adventures of Starship Dawn.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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