Artist conception of the Dawn spacecraft above Ceres
Artist conception of the Dawn spacecraft above Ceres

NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta and Ceres—the two largest asteroids orbiting the Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—is producing some remarkable results. It is the only spacecraft ever to orbit two destinations beyond Earth and the only craft to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt.

On Thursday (June 9) Mark Sykes will describe some of the results of this on-going mission. His illustrated lecture will be held in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy, starting at 3:30 p.m.

Sykes is a member of the Dawn Science Team. He will summarize and interpret what Dawn has been able to learn about those fascinating bodies and what they tell us about the evolution of the solar system.

Dawn used sophisticated ion propulsion that allowed it to orbit Vesta in 2011 and 2012, before going on to Ceres, where it has been since February, 2015. Vesta and Ceres are thought to be protoplanets that formed early in the history of the solar system.

Mark Sykes
Mark Sykes

Vesta is dry and rocky and the source of many meteorites found on Earth, while Ceres has more ices and is so large that it is now designated as a dwarf planet.

Sykes is the president and CEO of Tucson’s Planetary Science Institute. He was recently honored by the American Astronomical Society as this year’s recipient of its Harold Masursky Award for “outstanding service to planetary science and exploration.”

Written by Marcia Neugebauer, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Dawn Mission Visits Two Giant Asteroids: June 2016
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