Raymond, Carol Anne Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
Åkerman, Johan Department of Physics, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Last reviewed:February 2019
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A space probe mission that made the first visits to the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt, Ceres and Vesta. A primary objective of the Dawn mission was to learn more about the origin of the solar system by mapping objects that recorded the events of its earliest times. The targets chosen were the icy asteroid Ceres, a dwarf planet and the most massive object in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and Vesta, a rocky asteroid that is the second most massive object in the main belt. These bodies are believed to be survivors of the tumultuous history of collisions experienced in the asteroid belt and the inner solar system as the giant planets formed and migrated circa 4.6 billion years ago, when the solar system took shape. Ceres and Vesta thus offer insight into the icy and rocky building blocks of larger planets. A third science driver of the mission was the investigation of two small worlds with contrasting characteristics. Observations of both asteroids by the Hubble Space Telescope had provided some limited information regarding appearance and properties, but humanity did not truly know what Ceres and Vesta looked like until Dawn arrived (Fig. 1). See also: Asteroid; Ceres; Hubble Space Telescope; Jupiter; Mars; Planet; Solar system; Vesta
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