The giant asteroid Vesta may possess ice buried under its surface, a new study finds.
Vesta is the second-largest asteroid in the solar system, a 330-mile-wide titan in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that is sometimes visible to the naked eye on Earth.
The only larger asteroid is Ceres, which is also classified as a dwarf planet.NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited Vesta from 2011 to 2012 to learn more about the asteroid and, potentially, the composition of the solar system.
- Among the findings was evidence that Vesta has an onion-like structure like Earth’s, split into an outer crust, a central core and a mantle layer between the two.
- There are signs that Vesta once had a magnetic field.
“Buried ice could have been brought to the surface after an impact, which caused heated ice to melt and travel up through the fractures to the surface.”
Oher data from Dawn suggested that ice might exist on Vesta. For example, a 2015 study identified gullies on the asteroid potentially carved by short-lived flows of water on Vesta’s surface.
These findings suggest that ice could be present at larger scales “and could have played a more significant role in the evolution of Vesta than previously thought,” Heggy said.The scientists would like to analyze Ceres for similar findings.