NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Spots Asteroid Mountain 3 Times Everest

Dawn Space Craft
NASA has released a new image from its Dawn spacecraft that shows a mountain three times as high as Mount Everest in the south polar region of the asteroid Vesta.

The photo released Monday shows the peak of Vesta's tallest mountain rising nearly 13 miles (22 kilometers) above the average height of its rough surrounding terrain. It also spreads about 112 miles (180 kilometers) at its base.

Dawn is currently orbiting Vesta.

Vesta is the second largest body in the main asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is about 330 miles (529 kilometers) wide. Dawn entered Vesta's orbit in July and will stay there for a year collecting data before moving on to the dwarf planet called Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main belt.

"Vesta is full of surprises, and no more so than in the southern polar region," Paul Schenk, a Dawn participating scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, said during a press briefing.

"We had indications before arrival that the south polar region was going to be interesting," he said, adding that "Hubble pictures show a dimple there, but at [the space telescope's] resolution it's hard to tell what's going on."

The Vesta mountain is more than twice the height of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which is the tallest volcano on Earth. Mauna Lao rises 6 miles (9 km) from the Pacific Ocean floor, but most of it is under water.

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