Asteroids Come Alive With a Little Help From Infrared

By Jamie Condliffe on at

It's easy to assume that, close-up, asteroids could be quite plain—they're just big lumps of rock, after all. But look at them in infrared, and they come alive.

Some minerals in the rocks, you see, reflect certain wavelengths of light more than others. Looking at them in infrared light reveals hidden detail, like in the image above. This crate, Antonia, is on the asteroid Vesta.

Light blue areas reveal fine dust ejected from the asteroid's deep layers when it was hit, while darker areas are large chunks that buried the south end of the crater.

The image was captured by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has spent time camped on Vesta before taking off and heading towards dwarf planet Ceres for further space investigations.

[New Scientist]

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLAMPS/DLR/IDA