It is one of those evenings where the bed is not exactly summoning me, so I am on the computer. I am here, in between browsing web sites, and watching President Clinton on Letterman. I will pause, and watch this interview, first…..
Back to the blog; space is NOT empty! Regularly, astronomers are telescopically eying all kinds of things, interesting and otherwise. Planets and stars are being discovered regularly, and new information to bring updates to what we thought that we knew is coming in all of the time. Now, updated information is being made on a nearby object which is close enough to where we may have thought that nothing else new could be found!
Details about our solar system are being updated. Our main asteroid belt is located between the orbits of fourth planet Mars and fifth planet Jupiter. It is filled with thousands of rocky objects that are smaller than planets, and do not necessary have even, circular shapes. Interestingly, new items currently are being identified out there.
It is recognized that there are over 40,000 asteroids floating in the orbit of the main asteroid belt. Scientific observers have managed to tally nearly 3,000 of them. They seem to vary in size, with some no larger than random rocks, and others as large as small moons. Some of the asteroids even have moons of their own!
It has been during this month that N.A.S.A. has released images of one of the greater asteroids. Vesta is one of the largest asteroids within our solar system. Actually, it is second in size only to the dwarf planet Ceres. A current debate is raging as to whether or not Vesta will be classified as an asteroid, or as a dwarf planet!
Vesta has been measured as being 329 miles wide. Recent studies of Vesta have shown that it has a core, a crust, and a mantle. It is being called a protoplanet, as it has a thick body that is similar to our solar system’s rocky planets. Vesta has a rough, mountainous surface, with peaks that reach to extreme heights (one of the elevated surface structures is being called one of the tallest in the solar system…). However, Vesta’s formation process never completed to the level of the major planets, which is why it is labeled as a protoplanet.
Apparently, Vesta has a moon of it’s own! This newly observed object has not been labeled, yet. However, the moon has an enormous mountain on it. The images show that it is three times the height of Mount Everest, and two times as tall as our planet’s largest volcano, Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa is six miles high, and the Vesta mountain is being labeled as thirteen miles high! That’s huge!!! Also, it is nearly as tall as the heighest peak within our solar system, Olympus Mons of Mars, which elevates to fifteen miles.
N.A.S.A. has it’s space probe called Dawn currently within the main asteroid belt. It will observe Vesta for roughly one year. Afterward, it is supposed to shift it’s orbital path toward Ceres. Yet, unlike Vesta, which is a minor planet, recent updates of the statuses of objects within our solar system have allowed Ceres to be reclassified as a dwarf planet.
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