Science and Exploration

The Renaissance Of Main Belt Asteroid Science

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 19, 2022
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The Renaissance Of Main Belt Asteroid Science
Dawn at Ceres

The NASA Dawn spacecraft took off from Cape Canaveral in September 2007 atop a Delta II rocket starting an ambitious journey to Vesta and Ceres, the two most massive worlds in the largest reservoir of asteroids in the Solar System, the Main Belt.

Prior to the Dawn launch, Earth-bound observations of Vesta and Ceres revealed intriguing features–from Vesta’s rugged shape to Ceres’ tenuous water exosphere–, but these objects remained fuzzy speckles of light even through the lenses of the most powerful telescopes. With Dawn’s exploration of Vesta (2011-2012) and Ceres (2015-2018) these two worlds came into focus. Breath-taking details emerged of how large collisions sculpted Vesta liberating massive amounts of material in the inner Main Belt, providing the source of an important family of meteorites recovered on Earth. Ceres’ complex geology, which may rival that of the Earth and Mars, unveiled recent cryovolcanic activity.

This book is dedicated to these highlights, and many more discoveries of the Dawn mission. By the time Dawn completed its mission in 2018, our understanding of the formation of the Solar System had greatly evolved thanks to new theoretical models and to a new trove of meteorite geochemical data, and Dawn observations of Vesta and Ceres provide new, vital constraints to synergistically interpret models and data.

The broader implications of the Dawn legacy are presented in a series of dedicated chapters. The editors hope this book will serve as a solid reference for the younger generations as well as for more seasoned researchers to successfully pursue future exploration of the Main Belt. We certainly have learned a lot thanks to Dawn, and yet we know that we have barely scratched the surface of what Main Belt asteroids can tell us about the dawn of our Solar System.

Simone Marchi, Carol A. Raymond, Christopher T. Russell

Comments: This is the Epilogue of the book
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2208.07768 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2208.07768v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
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Journal reference: In S. Marchi, C. Raymond, & C. Russell (Eds.), Vesta and Ceres: Insights from the Dawn Mission for the Origin of the Solar System, Cambridge University Press (2022)
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Submission history
From: Simone Marchi
[v1] Tue, 16 Aug 2022 14:28:26 UTC (553 KB)
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