The mission of the Dawn spacecraft, which spent about a year to examine the giant asteroid Vesta, provided an enormous amount of information that are extremely interesting from a scientific point of view. However, Vesta is grayish and studded with craters of various sizes, not the most spectacular sight. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, have changed that reworking the images of Vesta giving them spectacular colors.
Various colors have been assigned to different light wavelengths in the images of the giant asteroid Vesta taken by the framing camera, one of the instruments of the Dawn space probe. The result is really amazing but this work wasn’t done just to get particularly evocative visual effects but with precise scientific purposes.
The colors that result from the processing revealed with details never seen before geological structures invisible to the naked eye as well as the alien beauty of the landscape. They allow you to see layers of molten rock as a result of impact craters hidden by earthquakes and materials brought by space rocks.
That’s how, for example, they obtained the image of the crater Antonia in enormous Rheasilvia basin in the southern hemisphere of Vesta. The light blue colored material is fine-grained, dug from the lower crust. The southern edge of the crater was buried by coarser material shortly after its formation. The dark blue color of the southern rim of the crater is due to the shadow of the blocky material.
In the image of the crater Sextilia you can see the full spectrum of colors of Vesta. The black-colored material was probably brought by the impact of a large asteroid while the red-colored material may have been melted by that impact. Various colors maximize subtle differences in the physical characteristics of the rock units, meaning color, texture and composition. In the color scheme, pyroxene, a iron-rich mineral, is of particular importance.
The Dawn spacecraft left the giant asteroid Vesta in September 2012 but many scientists keep on working on the data it collected. This protoplanet bears traces of the violent history of the solar system, which can now be admired in new extraordinary colors.