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Find Your Science at GSA
6 October 2011
GSA Release No. 11-63
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach

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Press Briefing Webcast: NASA’s Dawn Mission at Vesta

For Immediate Release

Scientists from NASA's Dawn Mission will present latest findings from their exploration of the solar system’s second most massive object in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, the asteroid Vesta, at a press briefing to be held from noon to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) on Wednesday, 12 October 2011.  The team is presenting their work at the 2011 Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Minneapolis, MN, 9-12 October 2011.

Media representatives not in attendance at the meeting are invited to participate in a live Webcast of the briefing.  Participation is free, but media are asked to pre-register in order to participate in the Q&A session with the speakers.

What: NASA's Dawn Mission at Vesta -- press briefing Webcast
When: Wednesday, 12 October 2011; 12-1:00 p.m. (CDT)

David Williams from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, and NASA Dawn Mission Associate Investigator, will be relaying questions from remote attendees to the panel during the briefing Q&A period.


An archive of the live news conference is available for viewing at:

Capturing the Surface of Asteroid Vesta
This full view of the giant asteroid Vesta was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, as part of a rotation characterization sequence on July 24, 2011, at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). A rotation characterization sequence helps the scientists and engineers by giving an initial overview of the character of the surface as Vesta rotated underneath the spacecraft. This view of Vesta shows impact craters of various sizes and grooves parallel to the equator. The resolution of this image is about 500 meters per pixel.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
About Dawn

Launched 27 September 2007, Dawn just reached Vesta, on 16 July 2011, becoming the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt, and the first NASA mission set to orbit two major targets in space. Dawn will gather high resolution data to map the surface of Vesta from increasingly closer orbits through summer 2012, when it will head off to explore a second protoplanet, Ceres, where it is scheduled to arrive in 2015. The study of these two distinct bodies is expected to shed light on the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch and help unravel the mysteries of planetary formation.


Carol Raymond, Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA Dawn Mission, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will be the lead speaker and moderator. Raymond will give an introduction to the Dawn mission and an overview of Vesta's shape, gravity, and topography.

Paul Schenk, Participating Scientist, NASA Dawn Mission, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Tex., will discuss findings relative to the puzzling south polar impact feature, which has been seen previously through the Hubble Space Telescope.

Debra Buczkowski, Participating Scientist, NASA Dawn Mission, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Md., will cover troughs on the asteroid's surface, their locations, and hypotheses on their origins.

Federico Tosi, VIR Team Member, NASA Dawn Mission, INAF (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica), IFSI (Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario), Rome, Italy, will cover the mineralogy of Vesta as it is known from visible and infrared spectrometer (VIR) data.

Learn more about NASA’s Dawn mission at

Detailed scientific program and scheduling information for the meeting are online
Complete meeting details

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The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with more than 24,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 95 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.