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Vesta, Up Close

May 11, 2012

Rheanna Sand

As I mentioned excitedly in a blog last year, NASA's Dawn Spacecraft has been busily circling one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, Vesta (more accurately, 4 Vesta, as there are a group of them). The first swath of major findings have been published in this week's edition of the journal Science. Getting a close-up shot of our favorite asteroid has revealed what was already thought by many astronomers: Vesta is more planet-like than other well-known asteroids. She could be our moon, if she weren't so darned independent.

 

Rather than just a floating chunk of porous rock, Vesta is now seen as a "layered, planetary building block with an iron core" that formed in a similar way as our planet and moon did billions of years ago. Vesta's development into a full-grown planet was halted at some point during it's history. While some are calling her a "failed planet," I like to think of her as trapped in her youth. I bet Heinrich Olbers didn't realize how appropriate it was to name her after a virgin goddess back in 1807.

 

Another cool finding from this mission is that, in analyzing the mineral content of Vesta, NASA researchers confirmed that many meteorites that hit Earth have come from this almost dwarf-planet. Pieces of Vesta account for 6% of the meteorites collected and analyzed. Wow, thanks Vesta! Pretty space rocks! I wonder if the giant meteorite I witnessed a few years ago in Edmonton was from you?

 

 

I can't help but wonder what Pluto would say... "I've been 'planet-like' this whole time and what do I get? A DEMOTION."

 

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