How an Ancient Angled Impact Created Vesta’s Groovy Belt
3D anaglyph of the 330-mile (530-km) -wide protoplanet Vesta made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2011. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at Vesta in July 2011, two features immediately jumped out at planetary scientists who had been so eagerly anticipating a good look at the giant asteroid. One was a series of long troughs encircling Vesta’s equator, and the other was the enormous crater at its southern pole. Named Rheasilvia, the centrally-peaked basin spans 500 kilometers in width and it was hypothesized that the impact event that created it was also responsible for the deep Grand Canyon-sized grooves gouging Vesta’s middle.
Now, research led by a Brown University professor and a former graduate student reveal how it all probably happened.
“Vesta got hammered,” said Peter Schultz, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and the study’s senior author. “The whole interior was reverberating, and what we see on the surface is the manifestation of what happened in the interior.”
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