You're practically in the same room with this unusual asteroid in a new 3-D animation from NASA's Dawn spacecraft.
Now even NASA has jumped on the 3-D bandwagon?
To watch this short movie properly, you'll need a pair of old-style novelty spectacles with red-green or red-blue lenses, making sure the red goes over the left eye. I'm sure you have a bucket of them lying around the house. If not, improvised specs can be made from bits of colored cellophane or different brands of beer bottles. Just empty the bottles first... how you do that is up to you.
The asteroid occupying center frame is Vesta, the second-biggest space rock from Mars to Jupiter that NASA is observing with its Dawn spacecraft. The video uses footage from August and July 2011, when Dawn first made contact with the floating boulder. Visually, it's easy to compare Vesta with driveway gravel, but that's just because scale is hard to establish in the vacuum. This thing is massive. Says NASA:
The images were obtained when Dawn was making its approach to Vesta, and while orbiting the giant asteroid in its first science orbit, known as survey orbit, at an altitude of about 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers). The video begins with a global view of Vesta from the plane of its equator, where a mysterious band of linear ridges and troughs can be seen. The movie cuts to a flyover of young craters in the northern hemisphere, whose peculiar alignment has led some scientists to refer to them as the "snowman." Then this virtual tour of Vesta takes the viewer around a massive mountain at the south pole of Vesta that is about 16 miles (25 kilometers) high, or more than twice the height of Mt. Everest.
Dawn is still circling its craggy prey like a paparazzo, snapping photos and making measurements. Next year it will take off to study the smallest dwarf planet in the solar system, Ceres. If you're ever anxious about where Dawn is at any given moment, this site allows you to track the roving spacecraft.
(Kudos to Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center for making this video.)