The Dawn spacecraft has been an avid photographer of the asteroid Vesta since it came into the orbit of the giant space rock months ago: It has taken more than 10,000 images.
Many of the photographs were taken from relatively far away, so far, but others were obtained from an average altitude of 209 kilometers (130 miles) above the surface of the star, the closest achieved so far.
The NASA on Wednesday released new images obtained by Dawn, an area of hills and craters buried near the equatorial region of the giant asteroid.
From this low orbit, scientists have noted numerous small craters caused by impacts, and see rows and outgoing with texture and detail.
"We are absolutely delighted with the data we are receiving. It looks better and better," said Carol Raymond, deputy head of research at the mission for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, which manages the mission for $ 466 million.
In addition to taking pictures as close to Vesta, Dawn will use other instruments to measure the gravitational field and determine its chemical composition to better understand their origins.
The probe will spend the next two and half months in the current orbit before moving to a higher altitude to take another round of pictures. At that time, the sun shine on Vesta from a different angle, allowing a better view sections of the northern hemisphere.
Vesta, which has a huge crater in the southern hemisphere, is the second largest body in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and has an average diameter of about 530 kilometers (330 miles), similar to the length of Ecuador or the state of Arizona.
Asteroids are the remnants of the solar system's birth, which occurred about 4,500 million years. Scientists study these bodies for clues on how rocky planets form the solar system, one of which is Earth.
Other spacecraft have visited smaller asteroids before, but this is the first trip dedicated to Vesta.
The Dawn spacecraft , which travels through an ion propulsion system began to orbit Vesta in July 2740 after traveling millions of miles (1,700 million miles) from Earth. Next year will leave Vesta orbit to travel to a even bigger asteroid, Ceres, arriving in 2015.