Dwarf Planets and Asteroids

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The USGS Astrogeology Science Center (Astrogeology) is currently supporting five missions that have visited or will visit either an asteroid or a dwarf planet: Dawn, New Horizons, Rosetta, Hayabusa, and OSIRIS-REx.  The Dawn mission is the current NASA spacecraft in the main asteroid belt and is en route to the largest asteroid, the dwarf planet Ceres. The Dawn spacecraft had previously been in orbit around the second largest asteroid, 4 Vesta.  An area of emphasis for Astrogeology staff is combining visible and spectroscopic data to understand the distribution of different materials on the surface of 4 Vesta.  Astrogeology has contributed to the success of the Dawn mission with software support for orthorectification of images and participation on the science team.  The USGS cartographic software package, Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS) software, is an integral part of the Dawn data processing and analysis.  In addition to science and software, Astrogeology is actively involved in addressing several issues related to the coordinate systems of asteroids, many of which cannot be well described with the spherical geometry that underpins centuries of cartography. 

Astrogeology is developing software to create maps from multispectral and hyperspectral images acquired from Rosetta (European Space Agency), Hayabusa (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), New Horizons (currently en route to Pluto), and the planned OSIRIS-REx mission, designed to visit a near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid, land, and return a sample to Earth.



Author Name
Timothy Titus
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