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Asteroid Vesta is the topic of astronomy lecture

November 14, 2012

David Williams, an associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, will talk about NASA’s Dawn mission to the asteroid Vesta as part of ASU’s Astronomy Public Lecture Series.

The lecture entitled “Asteroids, Ion Propulsion, and NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta,” will be held at 7 p.m., Nov. 16, in the Marston Exploration Theatre.

Vesta, an asteroid as large as Arizona, orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited Vesta between July 2011 and September 2012, sending back images of the asteroid’s unusual light- and dark-splotched surface.

Williams is part of a team of scientists on the Dawn Mission and recently co-authored an article on their findings in the journal Nature.

“The dark material on Vesta has been a perplexing problem, one we first noticed as Dawn approached Vesta in the summer of 2011,” Williams recently said. Dawn scientists believe the dark material is residue left from carbon-rich asteroids that pounded the surface of Vesta during the last 3.5 billion years.

The material left behind on Vesta indicates how Earth likely got the organic ingredients necessary for life to begin.

In addition to Vesta, Williams also will discuss ion propulsion, a new technology used by NASA on several recent missions.

The Marston Exploration Theatre is located in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV, which is located at the corner of McAllister and Terrace on the Tempe campus.  

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