Scientists Discover Hints of Water in Vesta's Past

More

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has documented strange "pitted terrain" on the asteroid, which seems to be the result of water that has "degassed into space."

PIA16183_page (1)-615.jpg

NASA

Right now, in the asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter, some 2.246 astronomical units from Earth (some 209 million miles) is NASA's spacecraft Dawn, which recently left its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. While it was there, it collected the most detailed observations of Vesta so far, observations which have now brought scientists to a conclusion they did not expect: a volatile material, likely water, appears to have evaporated from Vesta's surface, leaving behind a pockmarked texture and excess hydrogen.

Two papers published in the latest issue of Science both support this new conclusion. The researchers believe that water-laden meteorites once brought water to the asteroid, impacting at speeds low enough that the water was preserved. Later collisions heated the rock, causing the water to evaporate and creating hundreds of pits in the terrain, some as deep as 200 meters. There are no signs that there continues to be any water present.

All of these clues will be instrumental in helping scientists gain a better understanding of how what happened in the solar system's early days that led to the evolution of different planets such as Mars, Mercury, and our own.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In