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September 21 2012

Dawn spacecraft finds signs of water on Vesta


Vesta, the second-most-massive body in the asteroid belt, was thought to be bone dry. But NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has found evidence that smaller, water-rich asteroids once implanted themselves in Vesta’s surface. The water stays locked up in hydrated minerals until subsequent impacts create enough heat to melt the rock and release the water as a gas, leaving pitted vents in the surface.

The discovery shows that yet another body in the inner Solar System has a water cycle, says Carle Pieters, a planetary scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and a member of the Dawn science team.

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