Visit to an Asteroid
Reported June 2007
COLLEGE PARK, M.D. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Violent collisions once shook the universe sending rocky fragments, or asteroids, out to a region called the asteroid belt. Now, planetary scientists want to visit to get an up close look at two large asteroids.
Lucy MacFadden, Ph.D., a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, says, "We're launching a spacecraft to orbit two of the most massive asteroids in the main asteroid belt."
The dawn mission is the first time a spacecraft will visit Vesta, a small asteroid that's been reshaped by ancient lava flows, and Ceres, the largest known asteroid, that has evidence of water. After the spacecraft launches in June, it reaches Vesta in four years and then Ceres in another three. But you will have a rare chance to see Vesta this month. If you look south, it will be to the right just above Jupiter. Meanwhile, scientists anticipate what they'll find. "To be honest, we really don't know what we will see, but we know we will see unexpected things," Dr. MacFadden says.
Studying asteroids also helps scientists learn more about the how the solar system formed, and uncover the many mysteries of planets. Dr. MacFadden says, "We will learn something about the early stages of planet formation that we cannot learn here on Earth."
The spacecraft's eight year journey will travel more then 3.2 billion miles, a distant learning experience that is worth the trip.
The American Astronomical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Lucy McFadden, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist
Dept. of Astronomy
University of Maryland, College Park
For more information about asteroids:
American Astronomical Society
Washington, DC 20009-1231
Preventing Summer Heat Deaths:
This Month's TV Reports
Summer heat kills more people than tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and lightning combined. Now new technology may help save lives.
Preparing For Disaster:
Almost everyone lives where a flood, tornado or other natural disaster can strike but are you prepared? Simple tips to make sure you're covered.
Can Co2 Be A Good Thing?
Pollution may have a positive effect on some parts of our environment. It's helping trees and plants grow faster.
Tracking Global Carbon:
A pollution alert -- carbon is increasing three times faster than it was 50 years ago. We'll show you how it affects the air we breathe.
Traffic Accident Hotspots:
43,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. in traffic accidents. Now scientists are trying to figure out how to stop the accident from happening.
Light- Up Tents:
A new breakthrough for your next camping trip -- a tent that lights up.
First Stars In The Universe:
Catch a glimpse of the very first stars in the universe.
Trip To An Asteroid:
What's a boulder in space look like? This month, a spacecraft will take us on a journey to an asteroid
Soothing Sensitive Teeth:
A new toothpaste ingredient gives soothing relief to people with painful, sensitive teeth.
iPOD: HOW LOUD IS TOO LOUD?
Turn down the volume! Your iPOD could be drowning your hearing. We'll find out what's safe and what's putting your hearing at risk.
Become A Smarter Shopper:
Learn how to spot sneaky sales tricks and save money on everything you buy.
They are the oldest, toughest and rarest diamonds around -- and now scientists have a new theory of where they came from!