Vesta’s Formation History? It’s Complicated.

Just when scientists thought they had a tidy theory for how the giant asteroid Vesta formed, a new paper from NASA’s Dawn mission suggests the history is more complicated. If Vesta’s formation had followed the script for the formation of rocky planets like our own, heat from the interior would have created distinct, separated layers…

Dawn Makes an Elemental Discovery on Vesta

In what could be called a “eureka” moment for Dawn researchers and planetary scientists alike, hydrogen has been found on the surface of Vesta, a 550-km (340-mile) -wide protoplanet and the second most massive world in our Solar System’s main asteroid belt. The elemental discovery was made with the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND)…

Is Vesta a Planet Among Asteroids?

After nearly 5 months in orbit around Vesta, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned some incredibly detailed data about the composition and structure of what was once surely considered an asteroid. But now scientists are starting to have second thoughts about what exactly Vesta is… is it really an asteroid? Or is it more like a…

Pay a Visit to Vesta

Can’t see the video below? Click here. Here’s a great video released by JPL taking us on a virtual tour of the asteroid Vesta, from the point of view of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. It’s a shape model of Vesta, mapped with actual images acquired by Dawn during its approach and orbit of the 550-km (340-mile)…

A Snowman on Vesta

Aptly nicknamed the “Snowman”, these three craters were imaged on August 6, 2011 by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the protoplanet Vesta. Located on Vesta’s northern hemisphere, the craters were first visible to researchers on July 23. Dawn has been in orbit around Vesta for one month now and has already returned many amazingly detailed…

New Vesta Images!

Released today, this is one of several new images taken with the full-frame camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft currently in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. Look at the detail in the surface! Incredible! This image shows the southern hemisphere of Vesta, and around its equator are long, deep grooves. Many different sizes of craters can…

Surprise: Ceres’ Bright Spots are Probably Salt

So now that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been in orbit around Ceres for seven months, has the nature of its strange bright spots finally been determined? Are they brilliantly reflective deposits of water ice, as many initially suspected? Or just some curiously-bright rock faces? (Or the metallic remains of an ancient alien space base, like more…