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3 - Protoplanet Vesta and HED Meteorites

from Part II - Key Results from Dawn’s Exploration of Vesta and Ceres

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

Simone Marchi
Affiliation:
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado
Carol A. Raymond
Affiliation:
California Institute of Technology
Christopher T. Russell
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

The Dawn orbiter mission has revealed the mineralogical and chemical composition of Vesta’s surface materials and constraints on its interior structure. The surface is composed of breccias of basalt and ultramafic rocks, contaminated by exogenic carbonaceous chondrite. At the center of the asteroid is a metallic core about half the diameter of the body, and gravity data provide information on the thicknesses and densities of the mantle and crust. Huge, overlapping impact basins expose rocks of the lower crust and mantle. Howardite–eucrite–diogenite (HED) meteorites are samples of Vesta, mostly excavated by the giant impacts and delivered to Earth via an orbital resonance with Jupiter. Petrologic and geochemical studies of HEDs constrain interpretations of Dawn’s spectral and geochemical data, and offer otherwise unobtainable insights into the asteroid’s origin, bulk composition, global differentiation, impact history, and geochronology. Major unresolved questions include whether Vesta had an early magma ocean, as well as the source of “missing” olivine in mantle rocks, and a possible role for fluids. As the sole surviving rocky protoplanet, Vesta provides a unique perspective on the nebular raw materials that accreted to form the terrestrial planets.

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Vesta and Ceres
Insights from the Dawn Mission for the Origin of the Solar System
, pp. 41 - 52
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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