A team of planetary researchers from the University of Georgia and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has explored the relative age of large-scale troughs and impact basins on Vesta, the second largest asteroid in our Solar System.

Researchers Study Vesta, Second Largest Asteroid In Our Solar System.

Discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on March 29, 1807, Vesta is the only main-belt asteroid visible to the unaided eye.

It has an ellipsoidal shape with radial dimensions of 286 x 279 x 223 km and rotates once in 5.34 hours and orbits the Sun in 3.63 years.

Due to its large size, Vesta is believed to be a differentiated body with a core and a mantle just like our own planet.

“Vesta was on the way to becoming an Earth-like planet, too, but planet formation stopped along the way there early in the history of our Solar System,” said co-author Dr. Christian Klimczak, a researcher from the Center for Planetary Tectonics in the Department of Geology at the University of Georgia.

“Therefore, studying Vesta helps us understand the very early days of our planetary neighborhood and how our own planet formed.”

Vesta was hit by two other large asteroids which left large impact craters so big they cover most of the southern hemisphere of Vesta. These impacts are thought to have ejected rocky material into space.

Some of these rocks reached Earth as meteorites so scientists now have actual rock samples from Vesta to study its geochemistry.

“Rock properties are influenced by environmental conditions like surrounding stresses and the presence of water,” said Jupiter Cheng, doctoral candidate in the Center for Planetary Tectonics in the Department of Geology at the University of Georgia.

“Since Vesta is much smaller than Earth, or even the Moon, it has a weaker gravity, and rock would deform differently near the surface than what we see on Earth.”

“One big question is what triggered the formation of these large troughs.”

“The two troughs are concentric around the two massive impact basins, Rheasilvia and Veneneia, respectively, and widely considered to be simultaneously formed by the impact events, though this assumed age relationship has never been tested before.”

Using the so-called crater counting method, the researchers explored the relative age of Vesta’s basins and troughs.

“Counting the number of craters of various sizes in a given area allows us to determine how long they have accumulated and, consequently, how long ago the surface formed,” Cheng explained.

“Our result shows that the troughs and basins have a similar number of the crater of various sizes, indicating they share a similar age.”

“However, the uncertainties associated with the crater counts allow for the troughs to have formed well after the impacts.”

Originally Published By SciNews

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