*Note: This blog entry concerns moons, not mooning. For mooning and it’s variants such as the fruit-basket or the pressed-ham please see the appropriate entries.

avatar-maki-leftMan, I’m afraid to click on that last one. You talk about the moon and lament over Jovian satellites,  but somewhere in between those two bodies, the Jet Propulsion Lab’s Dawn mission is zeroing in on the protoplanet Vesta. After a few laps around the sun, it is moving towards the giant asteroid where it will allow itself to be captured into a stable orbit. After that, the plan is to spiral downwards in increasingly closer orbits taking photos in various wavelengths and mapping the terrain. Finally Dawn will orbit close enough to take gamma ray emission data and fluctuations in gravity in order to make out its elemental composition. Such gravity maps give scientists unique insights into what a planet/moon/asteroid is made of.

For an idea of what that looks like, check out this gravity map of the Earth made by the European Space Agency.

This post was brought to you by Darmstadtium (Ds) although now that I think of it this might have been more clever to save for a video game entry on the Nintendo DS.