A dwarf planet named Vesta can give scientists a lot of information about the solar system. Scientists have obtained vital information about the solar system using meteorite data from Vesta and solved the “Missing Mantle Problem”. From this, they have come to know something about the time of the solar system’s formation. Vesta was formed during this time and has since remained unaffected by the information that was captured at that time.
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have given this information in two papers. These papers, published in Nature Communications and Nature Astronomy last month, have taken our data to the time of the formation of the Solar System, two million years later. Because apart from such objects, such information cannot be found on Earth, Moon or any other planet because they have changed a lot since then.
Vesta is the second-largest body in the asteroid belt, which is 500 kilometers big. It is so big that it has evolved like Earth, Moon and Mars. In the early times of the Solar System, they were all like a ball of molten rock heated by collisions. Iron and iron-like elements such as rhenium, osmium, iridium, and platinum, called siderophiles, sat in their core. Due to which there was a lack of such features in their mantle. As the planets cooled, a solid crust formed over the cover and later, iron and other elements reached the crust from meteorites.
Most of the giant planets like Earth are mantle-type planets. That is, they have mantle-type rocks. Such rocks are rare in asteroids and meteorites. Qing Zhu Yin, a professor of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California’s Davis College of Letters and Science, explains that when we look at meteorites, we have core material and crust material. Still, we have Nothing that can be seen of the mantle. Planetary scientists call this the “Missing Mantle Problem”.
In the Nature Communications paper, researchers described three recently discovered meteorites that contained mantle rocks called ultramaphys. It includes the mineral olivine as a significant component. Researchers analyzed their isotopes precisely to develop clues to identify meteorites coming from Vesta or similar types of bodies.
Yin says that this is the first time that such samples of Vesta’s mantle have been made. NASA’s Dawn mission had remotely observed the rocks of the most significant impact crater at the south pole of Vesta in 2011. But then scientists could not find the mantle rocks. Since Vesta is tiny, its crust solidified much more quickly than the more giant planets. That’s why siderophile elements got deposited in its crust and mantle, and very early information about the solar system was accumulated in them. Due to the collision over time, some pieces of Vesta fell to Earth as meteorites.
Earlier, Yin’s lab had collaborated with a team of international researchers and studied the Moon’s crust and tried to learn about the early Solar System. In the second paper published in Nature Astronomy, Meng Hua Zhu of the Macao University of Science and Technology worked on Vesta with Ying and his colleagues. Yin explained that since Vesta was formed long ago, it is ideal for learning about the entire history of the solar system. It includes the time of the beginning of the solar system up to 20 million years later in our information.