The geologically recent giant impact basins at Vesta's south pole

Paul Schenk, David P. O'Brien, Simone Marchi, Robert Gaskell, Frank Preusker, Thomas Roatsch, Ralf Jaumann, Debra Buczkowski, Thomas McCord, Harry Y. McSween, David Williams, Aileen Yingst, Carol Raymond, Chris Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Dawn's global mapping of Vesta reveals that its observed south polar depression is composed of two overlapping giant impact features. These large basins provide exceptional windows into impact processes at planetary scales. The youngest, Rheasilvia, is 500 kilometers wide and 19 kilometers deep and finds its nearest morphologic analog among large basins on low-gravity icy satellites. Extensive ejecta deposits occur, but impact melt volume is low, exposing an unusual spiral fracture pattern that is likely related to faulting during uplift and convergence of the basin floor. Rheasilvia obliterated half of another 400-kilometer-wide impact basin, Veneneia. Both basins are unexpectedly young, roughly 1 to 2 billion years, and their formation substantially reset Vestan geology and excavated sufficient volumes of older compositionally heterogeneous crustal material to have created the Vestoids and howardite-eucrite-diogenite meteorites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-697
Number of pages4
Issue number6082
StatePublished - May 11 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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