Posted by Lydia on February 12th, 2010
Officially known as 4 Vesta, one may, weather permitting, pleasantly observe Asteroid Vesta as she meanders into Leo from February through June.
Haven’t got a telescope, you say? Well you are indeed in luck as Vesta is highly visible at this time through binoculars, shining at 6.1 magnitude and reaching opposition on the night of February 17th.
Asteroid 4 Vesta will remain an easy observing target for your viewing pleasure in March (magnitude 6.2), April at magnitude 6.8 and through June 1 at 7.7 magnitude.
Scientists believe that collisions with other asteroids have knocked sizable pieces off Vesta which have then fallen to earth as meteorites.
About the size of the U.S. state of Arizona, Vesta has been studied extensively by Hubble. These studies have determined that Vesta has been around since the formation of our planetary system.
Asteroid 4 Vesta contains an exposed mantle and a history of ancient lava flows and impact basins. This “space rock” is 525 kilometers across and once had a molten interior.
Unlike IDA and Gaspra which are fragmented pieces from other asteroids, Vesta is its own diverse and original “world”, perhaps our original “sixth rocky planet”?