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)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

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

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In