Giant Asteroid's Secrets Revealed

by / May 15, 2012

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has spent the last 10 months orbiting the Vesta asteroid from different altitudes, revealing that its has much in common with a small planet or Earth's moon.

This study of the asteroid showed a detailed map of Vesta’s surface and its mineral composition, as well as new data on its gravitational field that could be used to define the body’s inner structure, according to The Voice of Russia. "It seems that Vesta was large enough for its interior to melt, so that heavier matter could form a core, presumably of an average radius of 107 to 113 km," according to the story. "Then, numerous craters and ‘scratches’ on the surface revealed the differences in the mineralogy of the body dependent on the depth, which supports the idea that Vesta once had a magma ocean beneath the crust."

Photo courtesy of NASA