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Vesta’s massive asteroid impact could provide clues for how life formed on Earth

January 04, 2013

Vesta’s massive asteroid impact could provide clues for how life formed on Earth

NASA and astronomers team up to examine Vesta’s carbon.

NASA’s Dawn mission has revealed evidence that the protoplanet Vesta contains many dark patches that were caused by the collision of asteroids. Previously it was thought the Vesta’s dark areas were caused by geological processes on the planet. However, new evidence, which began surfacing in November, points to a different origin: carbon-rich asteroids.

The NASA research team found their conclusions by closely studying the composition of the dark spots as well as creating maps and models of the areas. They discovered that the distribution of the dark materials suggests that it was transferred to Vesta when a number of asteroids crashed into the protoplanet. Dawn captured the images that make up the 3D mosaic while orbiting Vesta from an altitude of 420 miles (680 km), researchers said, noting that additional collaboration with NASA allowed them to better examine the craters rimmed with carbon.

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