Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid impacts may have transferred carbonaceous material to protoplanet and inner solar system

Date:
January 3, 2013
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn's year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta's shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules.

In this three-dimensional image of one of Vesta’s smaller craters, the dark material can be seen within the crater.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn's year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta's shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules.

Related Articles


These results were published in the November-December issue of the journal Icarus.

Vesta is remarkable in many respects. With a diameter of approximately 530 kilometres, Vesta is the one of the few protoplanets in our solar system still intact today. Like other protoplanets, Vesta underwent complete melting approximately 4.5 billion years ago. However, most of the volcanic activity on Vesta is thought to have ceased within a few million years making it a time capsule from the early solar system. Dawn observations of Vesta have shown a surface with diverse brightness variations and surface composition. There is bright material on Vesta that is as white as snow and dark material on Vesta as black as coal.

The enigmatic dark material holds the key to understanding the impact environment around Vesta early in its evolution. Research led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Katlenburg-Lindau has shown that this dark material is not native to Vesta but was delivered by impacting asteroids. "The evidence suggests that the dark material on Vesta is rich in carbonaceous material and was brought there by collisions with smaller asteroids," explains. Vishnu Reddy from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the University of North Dakota, the lead author of the paper. In the journal Icarus, he and his colleagues now present the most comprehensive analysis of this material so far. Compositional analysis, mapping, and modelling of dark material distribution on Vesta suggest that it was delivered during the formation of giant impact basins on Vesta.

The dark material arrived with the first impact on the protoplanet

"First, we created a map showing the distribution of dark material on Vesta using the framing camera data and found something remarkable," explains Lucille Le Corre from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research one of the lead authors of the study. Dark material was preferentially spread around the edges of the giant impact basins in the southern hemisphere of Vesta suggesting a link to one of the two large impact basins. A closer examination showed that the dark material was most probably delivered during the formation of the older Veneneia basin when a slow impacting asteroid collided with Vesta. Dark material from this two to three billion year old basin was covered up by the impact that subsequently created the Rheasilvia basin. "We believe that the Veneneia basin was created by the first of two impacts two to three billion years ago," says Reddy. In fact, impact modelling presented in the paper reproduces the distribution of dark material from such a low velocity impact.

HED meteorites are fragments of Vesta

Evidence for dark material is also found in the HED meteorites that come from Vesta. Some of the meteorites show dark inclusions that are carbon-rich. Colour spectra of dark material on Vesta are identical to these carbon-rich inclusions in HED meteorites. The link between dark material on Vesta and dark clasts in HED meteorites provides us with direct evidence that these meteorites are indeed from Vesta. "Our analysis of the dark material on Vesta and comparisons with laboratory studies of HED meteorites for the first time proves directly that these meteorites are fragments from Vesta," says Le Corre.

"The aim of our efforts was not only to reconstruct Vesta's history, but also to understand the conditions in the early solar system," says Holger Sierks, co-investigator of the Dawn mission at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.

The Dawn mission was launched approximately five years ago and entered orbit around Vesta on July 16th, 2011. In 2015, Dawn will arrive at its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, that like Vesta orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter within the so-called asteroid belt. The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The Dawn framing cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The Framing Camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA/JPL.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vishnu Reddy, Lucille Le Corre, David P. O’Brien, Andreas Nathues, Edward A. Cloutis, Daniel D. Durda, William F. Bottke, Megha U. Bhatt, David Nesvorny, Debra Buczkowski, Jennifer E.C. Scully, Elizabeth M. Palmer, Holger Sierks, Paul J. Mann, Kris J. Becker, Andrew W. Beck, David Mittlefehldt, Jian-Yang Li, Robert Gaskell, Christopher T. Russell, Michael J. Gaffey, Harry Y. McSween, Thomas B. McCord, Jean-Philippe Combe, David Blewett. Delivery of dark material to Vesta via carbonaceous chondritic impacts. Icarus, 2012; 221 (2): 544 DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.08.011

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid impacts may have transferred carbonaceous material to protoplanet and inner solar system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130103130952.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2013, January 3). Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid impacts may have transferred carbonaceous material to protoplanet and inner solar system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130103130952.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid impacts may have transferred carbonaceous material to protoplanet and inner solar system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130103130952.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins