NASA’s Dawn mission is a spacecraft designed to collect data from the asteroid belt. The ship itself is a marvel. Outfitted with massive solar panel wings that can power it for years, Dawn converts xenon gas into plasma, which it propels from its engine at speeds up to 78,000 miles per hour (or 21 miles per second) for maximum acceleration. In fact, Dawn is the fastest ship NASA has ever launched. Even at top speeds, Dawn required four years to reach its first stop, the asteroid Vesta, the brightest asteroid in the solar system and the only one visible to the naked eye. Departing Earth in 2007, the ship reached Vesta in July of 2011 and departed last September for the asteroid Ceres, which it will reach in February of 2015. Via OpenCulture.
For those visually driven – please take a look at the beautiful interactive map of our stellar neighborhood. With over 100,000 stars in an interactive visualisation, you can take a walk through the stellar neighborhood.