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Colors of the Rainbow: NASA Video Brings Vesta to Life

A new NASA video tells the story of the composition of the dwarf-planet Vesta - in colors. Photo Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ UCLA/ MPS/ DLR/ IDA/ PSI

NASA has released a video that paints the surface of the dwarf planet Vesta in the colors of the rainbow. These false-color images allow viewers to better understand the rugged terrain and composition of the tiny world. This 3-D model was constructed with images taken by the Dawn spacecraft orbiting high above.

The colors used in this video were selected so as to better allow Vesta’s composition to be better interpreted by the human eye. According to a NASA press release the most obvious color, the one that stands out the most – is orange. This color relates to material that has been blasted out during impact events. It also highlights a simple fact – the material that has been thrown out is a different material than what the surface is comprised of.


Video courtesy of JPL

Green is another abundant color – in this video green represents iron. The NASA press release issued regarding the video details that certain regions, such as Vesta’s Rheasilvia impact basin contains less iron than the surrounding areas.

Using its framing camera, the Dawn spacecraft has been put to work developing a 3-D map of Vesta’s terrain. The whole process will take a while to complete, certain area’s of the small world are draped in shadow and Dawn is working to record images from these areas (primarily Vesta’s polar regions).

Dawn has a limited window in which to accomplish this as the spacecraft, different than other probes, is slated to break orbit from Vesta and head to its next target, another minor planet named Ceres. Dawn is currently scheduled to depart Vesta for Ceres on Aug. 26.

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Written by Jason Rhian

Jason Rhian gained Bachelor’s Degrees in journalism and public relations from the University of South Florida and spent countless hours volunteering with NASA and other space groups to gain experience. He has interned with NASA twice. Once at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press site in 2007 and with NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) in 2009.

Jason has worked with a number of space-related groups and events - including Google Lunar X-PRIZE team Omega Envoy, the 2009 International Space Development Conference and NASA's KSC press site. Jason has covered over 30 launches. His work has been published in Aviation Week & Space Technology, The Spaceport News and online with,,,, Universe Today and other websites.

Whereas some journalists are comfortable repurposing a press release and using imagery provided to them by the public relations arm of that organization – Jason has made a habit of getting behind the pre-approved announcements to cover the events first hand. He covered President Obama’s remarks live from Kennedy Space Center in April 2010. Jason also flew out to Utah to cover the test fire of Alliant Techsystems second test of the company’s Development Motor-2 (DM-2). More recently, he sat in the backseat of history, flying on NASA’s Shuttle Training Aircraft with STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson as he trained for the last mission of the space shuttle era during the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT).

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