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Vesta Confirmed as a Venerable Planet Progenitor

from Nature News

NASA's Dawn spacecraft won't end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System's second-biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock's reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta, and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometre-diameter body.

Dawn, which began orbiting Vesta last July and lowered itself to within 200 kilometres of the asteroid over the following months, has gathered strong evidence that Vesta is indeed the source of the 'Vestoid' family of asteroids as well as the howardite-eucrite-diogenite meteorite family, which accounts for 6% of meteorites.

The craft's observations reveal that the surface composition of Vesta matches that of the Vestoids, and that a collision that gouged a large crater at the asteroid's south pole could have blasted enough chunks into space to account for the Vestoids and the meteorites.

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