Between July 2011 and September 2012, NASA's Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. In this paper, Dawn's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIR) team presents a surprising finding — the signature of olivine on the asteroid's surface. Olivine is a major component of the mantle of differentiated bodies, including Earth. Vesta is a large asteroid, large enough to have differentiated into an Earth-like layered structure and the expectation was that olivine would be found within Vesta's deep, south-pole basins, thought to be excavated mantle rocks. Yet the spectroscopic data reveal olivine-rich material close to the surface in the northern hemisphere. An understanding of the differentiation processes that have occurred on Vesta will be invaluable as a window on the primordial Solar System, but these latest findings show that Vesta's evolutionary history is more complicated than was thought.
- Olivine in an unexpected location on Vesta’s surface (Letter p122, doi: 10.1038/nature12665)
Recent Hot Topics
Sign up for Nature Research e-alerts to get the lastest research in your inbox every week.