Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How a giant impact formed asteroid Vesta’s ‘belt’

04.11.2014

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. Their analysis of the images — taken at a million frames per second — shows how Vesta may have gotten the deep grooves that encircle its midsection.

When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft visited the asteroid Vesta in 2011, it showed that deep grooves that circle the asteroid’s equator like a cosmic belt were probably caused by a massive impact on Vesta’s south pole.


A massive collision

A high-speed camera recorded a laboratory simulation of colliding heavenly bodies. An analysis of shock propagation suggests what may have caused the tilted canyon-like grooves around the equator of the asteroid Vesta.

Image: Angela Stickle and Peter Schultz

Now, using a super high-speed cannon at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Brown University researchers have shed new light on the violent chain of events deep in Vesta’s interior that formed those surface grooves, some of which are wider than the Grand Canyon.

“Vesta got hammered,” said Peter Schultz, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and the paper’s senior author. “The whole interior was reverberating, and what we see on the surface is the manifestation of what happened in the interior.”

The research suggests that the Rheasilvia basin on Vesta’s south pole was created by an impactor that came in at an angle, rather than straight on. But that glancing blow still did an almost unimaginable amount of damage.

The study shows that just seconds after the collision, rocks deep inside the asteroid began to crack and crumble under the stress. Within two minutes major faults reached near the surface, forming deep the canyons seen today near Vesta’s equator, far from the impact point.

The research, led by Angela Stickle, a former graduate student at Brown and now a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, will appear in the February issue of the journal Icarus and is now available online.

"As soon as Pete and I saw the images coming down from the Dawn mission at Vesta, we were really excited," Stickle said. "The large fractures looked just like things we saw in our experiments. So we decided to look into them in more detail, and run the models, and we found really interesting relationships."

For the study, the researchers used the Ames Vertical Gun Range, a cannon with a 14-foot barrel used to simulate collisions on celestial bodies. The gun uses gunpowder and compressed hydrogen gas to launch projectiles at blinding speed, up to 16,000 miles per hour.

For this latest research, Schultz and his colleagues launched small projectiles at softball-sized spheres made of an acrylic material called PMMA. When struck, the normally clear material turns opaque at points of high stress. By watching the impact with high-speed cameras that take a million shots per second, the researchers can see how these stresses propagate through the material.

The experiments showed that that damage from the impact starts where one would expect: at the impact point. But shortly after, failure patterns begin to form inside the sphere, opposite the point of impact. Those failures grow inward toward the sphere’s center and then propagate outward toward the edges of the sphere like a blooming flower.

Using numerical models to scale the lab collision up to the size of Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, the researchers showed that the outward-blooming “rosette” of damage extending to the surface is responsible for the troughs that form a belt around Vesta’s equator.

The results answer some questions about Vesta’s belt that had long been puzzling. Chief among them is the orientation of the belt with respect to the crater. The belt’s angle isn’t exactly what would be expected if it were caused by the Rheasilvia impact.

“The belt is askew,” Schultz said, “as if Vesta were making a fashion statement.”

These new experiments suggest that the crooked belt is the result of the angle of impact. An oblique impact causes the damage plane to be tilted with respect the crater. The orientation of Vesta’s belt sheds light on the nature of the impact. The researchers conclude that the object that created Rheasilvia came in at an angle less than 40 degrees, traveling at about 11,000 miles per hour.

“Vesta was lucky,” Schultz said. “If this collision had been straight on, there would have been one less large asteroid and only a family of fragments left behind.”

The research shows that even a glancing blow can have tremendous consequences.

“When big things happen to small bodies,” Schultz said, “it shakes them to the core.”

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.

Kevin Stacey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/11/vesta

Further reports about: Vesta asteroid belt collision damage equator experiments orientation propagate

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods
19.10.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht NASA team finds noxious ice cloud on saturn's moon titan
19.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>