Dawn Classrooms > Interactions of Energy and Matter
What will we "see" when we get to Vesta and Ceres?
Dawn Mission Objectives
The mission's science goals are to understand the conditions and processes in place at the beginning of solar system formation. Scientists also hope to gain a new understanding of the role of water in asteroid evolution.
Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) will play a major role in accomplishing the goals of the Dawn Mission. All the Dawn spacecraft instrumentation utilizes the interaction of specific ranges of electromagnetic radiation with the matter that comprises Ceres and Vesta. The results of these interactions will enhance our knowledge of the physical characterization of the asteroids, as well as the surface composition and mineralogy, surface modification and the ages of these surfaces. When this information is incorporated with what is already known, it will either substantiate current scientific models of asteroid origins and morphology or it will form the basis for new models.
EMR interacts with matter, including electrons and neutrons, by absorption and emission only in wavelengths corresponding to particular discrete amounts of energy. These wavelengths can then be used to identify the components of a given substance.
Most science curricula emphasize how we use electromagnetic radiation in our everyday lives, using illustrations such as radios, x-ray machines, microwaves, ultraviolet and infrared lamps. The materials in this module will introduce students to the ways that scientists, engineers, and technologists "in the real world" design instrumentation that utilize the interactions between different frequencies/wavelengths of the EMR and matter to make scientific measurements and analyze data; specifically,
- to detect the presence of elements and mineral content (compounds and mixtures);
- to study topographical and surface mineralogy of asteroids; and
- to determine the masses of the asteroids using gravity measurements.