A NASA spacecraft called Dawn has delivered fresh images of an enormous asteroid called Vesta, revealing new detail about the giant object’s turbulent past.
A video made up of images collected as Dawn flew 2,700km above Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt, reveals circular craters, grooves and other battle scars from collisions with other space objects.
Professor Trevor Ireland, an asteroid expert from the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences said NASA focused on Vesta because it may provide some clues about how Earth may have formed.
“It’s interesting to see the range of crater sizes that are there,” he said.
“It’s showing us quite vividly that what happens is all of the bodies in the solar system experience lots and lots of impacts. It’s only a matter of time before you get an impact which is too big and it is smashed apart rather than taking a crater.”
Professor Ireland, who recently helped analyse dust collected on a different asteroid by Japan’s space agency, said he was particularly interested in the horizontal stripes around Vesta’s equator.
“One of the intriguing things about Vesta we have known from Hubble observations is it got smacked very hard early on and it has this very big crater down around the south pole,” he said.
“I am curious as to whether these horizontal ridges are pressure ridges induced from when it got hit hard by something quite large.”