NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta and Ceres—the two largest asteroids orbiting the Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—is producing some remarkable results. It is the only spacecraft ever to orbit two destinations beyond Earth and the only craft to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt.
On Thursday (June 9) Mark Sykes will describe some of the results of this on-going mission. His illustrated lecture will be held in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy, starting at 3:30 p.m.
Sykes is a member of the Dawn Science Team. He will summarize and interpret what Dawn has been able to learn about those fascinating bodies and what they tell us about the evolution of the solar system.
Dawn used sophisticated ion propulsion that allowed it to orbit Vesta in 2011 and 2012, before going on to Ceres, where it has been since February, 2015. Vesta and Ceres are thought to be protoplanets that formed early in the history of the solar system.
Vesta is dry and rocky and the source of many meteorites found on Earth, while Ceres has more ices and is so large that it is now designated as a dwarf planet.
Sykes is the president and CEO of Tucson’s Planetary Science Institute. He was recently honored by the American Astronomical Society as this year’s recipient of its Harold Masursky Award for “outstanding service to planetary science and exploration.”
Written by Marcia Neugebauer, Academy Village Volunteer