A super-sized asteroid - named 2012 LZ1 - will whiz by our planet tonight. There is no cause for concern of a deep impact or even a glancing blow, however. The space rock will pass 14 lunar distances or 3.35 million miles away.
Asteroid 2012 LZ1 is big, but nothing compared to asteroid Vesta, which measures 330 miles across. NASA announced today that its Dawn spacecraft will begin its final data gathering phase from that asteroid tomorrow, Friday June 15.
Vesta is the brightest (but not visible with the naked eye) asteroid in our solar system and the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The Dawn spacecraft began orbiting Vesta almost one year ago (July 16, 2011) and has snapped thousands of images.
Asteroid and the Snowman
The above sounds like it could be the title of a Saturday morning cartoon show for kids, or perhaps another forgettable science fiction flick with a superhero named Snowman saving Earth from imminent destruction by collision with a huge asteroid.
Of the thousands of images of Vesta the Dawn spacecraft captured, one in particular revealed a snowman formation. We’ll show you four possible images, to see if you can spot it:
Do you see the snowman?? Concentrate, and use your imagination as necessary. Yeah, we know there is no snow, so how could there be a snowman? It should be rather obvious.
Still having trouble? Or even if not, click here.
The picture, the first showing the set of three craters was nicknamed Snowman by Dawn mission scientists given the likeness to the pile of large snowballs .
The greeting card shown was one of many of winter-themed greeting cards using images of asteroid Vesta. See more and, if so inclined, become a greeting card artist by following the guidelines provided by the “Dawn Community”
Vesta is one of the largest single sources for meteorites found on Earth, i.e., rocks strewn into space towards Earth when Vesta was battered by other objects that produced craters during the early life of the solar system. Indeed, Vesta is considered a fossil of the early solar system. Moreover, the observations from Dawn are the first time a spacecraft visited the source of identifiable meteorites after they were discovered on Earth.
Asteroid 2012 LZ1
Credit: Nick Howes, Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero / Remanzacco Observatory