Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

You're beautiful, Vesta

May 11, 2012

NASA's UCLA-led Dawn mission shows protoplanet's surprising surface

When UCLA's Christopher T. Russell looks at the images of the protoplanet Vesta produced by NASA's Dawn mission, he talks about beauty as much as he talks about science.

"Vesta looks like a little planet. It has a beautiful surface, much more varied and diverse than we expected," said Russell, a professor in UCLA's Department of Earth and Space Sciences and the Dawn mission's principal investigator. "We knew Vesta's surface had some variation in color, but we did not expect the diversity that we see or the clarity of the colors and textures, or their distinct boundaries. We didn't find gold on Vesta, but it is still a gold mine."

Dawn has been orbiting Vesta and collecting data on the protoplanet's surface since July 2011. Vesta, which is in the doughnut-shaped asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is currently some 321 million miles from Earth.

The journal Science publishes six papers about Vesta on May 11. Russell is a co-author on all of them.

Russell and his scientific team expected to find a large crater on Vesta, but they were surprised to find two, with the larger one essentially on top of the smaller. The smaller crater covers roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Monterey, Calif.; the larger one would stretch from L.A. to San Francisco.

"When we got to Vesta, we found two very large impacts, both in the southern region," Russell said. "One dates at about a billion years ago, and the other at least 2 billion years ago. Seeing two was a real discovery, and getting their ages is even better. The ages look like they correspond to the dates when we think rocks were blasted off Vesta; some came all the way to Earth. The large size of the craters can easily account for the material that came off, to fall as meteorites and many smaller 'Vestoids' that are like very large boulders."

Many of the so-called Vestoids are approximately one-half mile to five miles across, and there may be thousands of them throughout the asteroid belt, Russell said. Named for the ancient Roman goddess of the hearth, Vesta has been bombarded by comets, meteoroids and its smaller siblings for 4.5 billion years.

Among the other new discoveries reported in Science:

- Vesta has large mountains - the largest is more than twice the size of Mount Everest - which were formed by a major impact to the protoplanet's surface. Scientists thought most of Vesta outside the south polar region might be flat like the moon, yet some of the craters outside that region formed on very steep slopes and have nearly vertical sides, with landslides often occurring in the regolith, the deep layer of crushed rock on the surface.

- The Dawn mission has witnessed a pattern of minerals exposed by deep gashes created by space-rock impacts to Vesta. This might support the idea that Vesta was once molten inside and had a sub-surface magma ocean.

- Vesta has an iron core, formed during the period in which the protoplanet was molten, at the earliest epoch of the solar system; Dawn's measurements of Vesta's gravitational field have confirmed this. This finding was expected because meteorites from Vesta have less iron than the solar nebula from which planetary building blocks formed. That the iron is indeed sequestered in Vesta's core confirms thinking that Vesta separated into layers when it formed, and this starting composition allows scientists to constrain early solar system models.

- Vesta's surface contains many bright spots of varying size. A real surprise is that Vesta also has some areas as dark as coal. The dark and light markings form intricate patterns suggesting the dominance of impact processes in creating mixed layers in Vesta's regolith.

"It looks like an artist has painted the craters in fancy patterns," Russell said. "It is beautiful, and surprising."

Dawn has obtained more than 20,000 images of Vesta and millions of spectra, or data collected from different wavelengths of radiation.

"Everything is working," Russell said proudly.

Studies of meteorites found on Earth that are linked to Vesta suggest that Vesta formed from interstellar gas and dust during the solar system's first 2 to 5 million years.

"Vesta has been recording the history of the solar system from the beginning," Russell said. "We are going back to the beginning of the solar system - more than 4.5 billion years ago. We're going back further than ever before on the surface of a body."

New images and videos of Vesta are available at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn20120510.html.

The Dawn mission, which launched in September 2007, has been as close as 125 miles from the surface of Vesta, which has an average diameter of approximately 330 miles.

Dawn has a high-quality camera, along with a back-up; a visible and near-infrared mapping spectrometer to identify minerals on the surface; and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer to reveal the abundance of elements such as iron and hydrogen, possibly from water, in the soil. Dawn also probes Vesta's gravity using extremely precise navigation.

The study of Vesta, however, is only half of Dawn's mission. The spacecraft will also conduct a detailed study of the structure and composition of the dwarf planet Ceres. Vesta and Ceres are the most massive objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn's goals include determining the shape, size, composition, internal structure, and tectonic and thermal evolution of both objects, and the mission is expected to reveal the conditions under which each of them formed.

Dawn, the second scientific mission to be powered by an advanced NASA technology known as ion propulsion, is the first NASA mission to orbit two solar system targets beyond the moon.

After orbiting Vesta, Dawn will leave for its nearly three-year journey to Ceres, which could harbor substantial water or ice beneath its rock crust - and possibly life. The spacecraft will rendezvous with Ceres and begin orbiting in 2015, conducting studies and observations for at least five months.

"I want to squeeze every last image out of Vesta before we leave," Russell said. "We will be analyzing Vesta's surface properties at least until we get to Ceres."

University of California - Los Angeles


Related Vesta Current Events and Vesta News Articles


New detector perfect for asteroid mining, planetary research
The grizzled asteroid miner is a stock character in science fiction. Now, a couple of recent events - one legal and the other technological - have brought asteroid mining a step closer to reality.

UCLA-led NASA mission provides closest ever look at dwarf planet Ceres
A NASA mission led by UCLA professor Christopher Russell has released new images of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

Meteorites key to the story of Earth's layers: ANU media release
A new analysis of the chemical make-up of meteorites has helped scientists work out when the Earth formed its layers.

Geologic mapping of asteroid Vesta reveals history of large impacts
A team of 14 scientists led by David Williams of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration has completed the first global geologic and tectonic map of the asteroid Vesta. The work reveals that Vesta's history has been dominated by impacts from large meteorites.

How a giant impact formed asteroid Vesta's 'belt'
Collisions of heavenly bodies generate almost unimaginable levels of energy. Researchers at Brown used NASA's ultra-high-speed cannon and computer models to simulate such a collision on Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt.

New study finds oceans arrived early to Earth
Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life.

Violent solar system history uncovered by WA meteorite
Curtin University planetary scientists have shed some light on the bombardment history of our solar system by studying a unique volcanic meteorite recovered in Western Australia.

Carbon in Vesta's craters
The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere.

New type of 'space weathering' observed on asteroid Vesta
The surface of the giant asteroid Vesta is weathering in a way that appears to be completely different from any other asteroid yet visited, according to new data recorded by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Solar wind particles likely source of water locked inside lunar soils
The most likely source of the water locked inside soils on the moon's surface is the constant stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind, a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues have concluded.
More Vesta Current Events and Vesta News Articles

The Vesta Conspiracy: A Science Fiction Thriller (Solarian War Saga) (Volume 2)

The Vesta Conspiracy: A Science Fiction Thriller (Solarian War Saga) (Volume 2)
by Felix R Savage (Author)


They banished her to hide the truth. With lives in the balance, will her heroic luck hold out? Elfrida Goto is a hero and a lifesaver, but as far as the Space Corps is concerned, she's a reminder of the deadly Galapagos incident. Banished to 4 Vesta, the boondocks of the asteroid belt, she's commissioned to work with the University of Vesta to look for more resource-rich asteroids. She's an unwelcome interloper, but when a group of protesters steal the university's data, Elfrida is the only one who can catch the thieves. Joining forces with a timid data analyst and a hermaphroditic sexbot, Elfrida sets out on a perilous journey across the asteroid's massive surface. There's a grotesque truth behind the Vesta conspiracy. Elfrida must expose it before it destroys thousands of lives…...

The New Vesta Home: How a Renewed Tradition Can Keep Your Marriage & Family Together (Volume 2)

The New Vesta Home: How a Renewed Tradition Can Keep Your Marriage & Family Together (Volume 2)
by Debra May Macleod (Author), Don Macleod (Author)


What if your home was more sacred than any church or temple? What if you could find spiritual comfort without abandoning your reason or values? What if you could understand why looking into a flame brings you ancient feelings of well-being? What if you could find greater meaning and happiness in your life and strengthen the bonds in your marriage and family? The true “spirituality of the home,” the faith and flame of Vesta burned in antiquity for centuries, providing a spiritual focus for the home and strengthening marital and family devotion. Today, this tradition has been reignited in the modern world and is being embraced by a new generation of “spiritual but not religious” women, men and families. In The New Vesta Home, the essential companion to The New Vesta...

Vesta Dipping Grill: Beyond the Sauce

Vesta Dipping Grill: Beyond the Sauce
by Matt Wolkon Josh; Selby (Author)


Book by Matt Wolkon Josh; Selby

Vesta Mangun Continues

Vesta Mangun Continues
by Vesta Mangun (Author)




Vesta's Fire - Vestas Feuer (Scene From the Opera) By Beethoven / Vocal Score

Vesta's Fire - Vestas Feuer (Scene From the Opera) By Beethoven / Vocal Score
by Beethoven - Text by Emanuel Schikaneder (Author)


Vestas Feuer Vesta`s Fire (Scene from thr Opera) by Ludwig Van Beethoven Text by Emanuel Schikaneder Completed, edited and translated by Clayton Westermann Published by Schirmer 36 Pages Size 7 x 9 approx Unused Condition/Old Store Stock Out of Print 08Box5(3)

Vesta Tilley (Pioneers)

Vesta Tilley (Pioneers)
by SARA MAITLAND (Author)


Book by SARA MAITLAND

The Best of Vesta Mangun

The Best of Vesta Mangun
by Vesta Layne Mangun (Author)


"Herein can be found the voice of a prophetess imparting messages that cause us to scream out with agony of soul. This book is a must for every believer who desires to be more than stirred." ~Lee Stoneking, Evangelist from New York. [Excerpt from back cover.]

Birth of the Persian Empire: The Idea of Iran, Volume I

Birth of the Persian Empire: The Idea of Iran, Volume I
by Sarah Stewart (Editor), Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (Editor)


This book explores the formation of the first Persian Empire under the Achaemenid Persians. It brings together a multi-disciplinary view of ancient Iran in the first millennium BC and concentrates on the art, archaeology, history and religion of a vast geographical area far beyond the present borders of modern Iran in the period beginning just before the formation of the Persian empire in the middle of the 6th century up to its collapse following conquest by Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC. Eminent scholars offer a critical approach to some of the traditional interpretations and guide the reader towards a better understanding of the formation of the Persian empire. This is the first volume in the four-volume Idea of Iran series. Charting over 1000 years of history, The...

The Rise of Islam (The Idea of Iran) (Pt. 4)

The Rise of Islam (The Idea of Iran) (Pt. 4)
by Sarah Stewart (Author), Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (Editor)


This final volume in the successful series ""The Idea of Iran"" addresses the astonishing impact made by Islam during and after the Arab conquest of Iran in the middle of the seventh century. As the Sasanian dynasty crumbled before the invaders' triumphant onslaught, its state religion of Zoroastrianism was unceremoniously dismantled to make way for the new faith of the victorious desert warriors. Yet why, if Iran jettisoned its indigenous religion, did it still manage to retain its Persian language and distinctive Iranian identity once Muslim governance took hold? These, and other intriguing questions, are addressed by the book, which includes distinguished contributions from world-renowned scholars such as Hugh Kennedy, Edmund Bosworth, Robert Hillenbrand and Ehsan Yarshater. Discussing...

Vesta's Hearth 1

Vesta's Hearth 1
by Frances Penwiddy


Wrongly convicted a man is sent to a correction institute.
Dressed in the uniform of a female office cleaner he is frightened - What are the authorities doing to him?
And then the girly thoughts begin and the fear and confusion increase

© 2017 BrightSurf.com