Data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a common form of weathering, which occurs on many airless bodies in the inner solar system like the Moon, does not age Vesta’s outermost layer.
This image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows a close up of part of the rim around the crater Canuleia on the giant asteroid Vesta. Canuleia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter, is the large crater at the bottom-left of this image. This close-up image illustrates the structure of the interior of the crater and complex details of the fresh rays across the soil of Vesta. The image was taken by Dawn's framing camera on Dec. 29, 2011, from an altitude of about 130 miles (210 kilometers).
Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta's surface over a long span of its history. The results are described in two papers reported on Nov. 1 in the journal Nature.
David Williams, an associate research professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, is a co-author of the Nature article on Vesta’s dark material, titled “Dark Material on Vesta: Delivering Carbonaceous Volatile-Rich Materials to Planetary Surfaces.”
“The dark material on Vesta has been a perplexing problem, one we first noticed as Dawn approached Vesta in the summer of 2011,” said Williams, a member of the science team task force investigating the dark material. “Through Dawn’s mission at Vesta, it became clear that the dark material was mostly derived from carbon-rich asteroids that impacted Vesta’s surface.”
Early pictures of Vesta showed a variety of dramatic light and dark splotches on its surface. These light and dark materials were unexpected and show Vesta has a brightness range that is among the largest observed on rocky bodies in our solar system.
“Most of the smaller dark material patches are associated with impact craters, forming dark rays of ejecta spreading outward,” Williams said. “There are also large regions of dark material, whose composition suggests they are derived from carbon-rich asteroids – perhaps from one or more large impacts early in Vesta’s history.”
Dawn scientists suspected early on that bright material is native to Vesta. One of their first theories for the dark material suggested it might come from the shock of high-speed impacts melting and darkening the underlying rocks or from recent volcanic activity.
An analysis of data from Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer and the framing camera revealed that distribution of dark material is widespread and occurs in small spots and in diffuse deposits, without correlation to any particular underlying geology. The likely source of the dark material is now shown to be carbon-rich asteroids, which are also believed to have deposited hydrated minerals on Vesta.
To get the amount of darkening we now see on Vesta, Williams and colleagues said, scientists estimate about 300 dark asteroids with diameters between 0.6 to 6 miles (1 and 10 kilometers) likely hit Vesta during the last 3.5 billion years. This would have been enough to wrap Vesta in a blanket of mixed material 3 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) thick.
“This perpetual contamination of Vesta with material from elsewhere in the solar system is a dramatic example of an apparently common process that changes many solar system objects,” said Thomas McCord, lead author of the Nature paper, who worked with Williams on this study. “Earth likely got the ingredients for life – organics and water – this way.”
Launched in 2007, Dawn spent more than a year investigating Vesta. It departed in September 2012 and is currently on its way to the dwarf planet Ceres.
Williams is a participating scientist on NASA’s Dawn mission. JPL manages the Dawn mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.
Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.
For more information about Dawn, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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