4 Vesta

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Vesta, formal designation 4 Vesta, is an asteroid, thought to be a remnant protoplanet, with a mean diameter of about 530 km.[1] Comprising an estimated 9% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt,[10] it is the second most massive object in the belt (the largest being the dwarf planet Ceres). It was discovered by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on March 29, 1807[1] and named after the Roman virgin goddess of home and hearth, Vesta.

Vesta is the brightest asteroid. Its greatest distance from the Sun is slightly more than the minimum distance of Ceres from the Sun,[11] and its orbit is entirely within the orbit of Ceres.[12] Vesta lost some 1% of its mass in a collision less than one billion years ago. Many fragments of this event have fallen to Earth as Howardite-Eucrite-Diogenite (HED) meteorites, a rich source of evidence about the asteroid.[13]



The discovery of Ceres in 1801 and Pallas in 1802 led German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers to propose that the two objects were the remnants of a destroyed planet. In 1802 he sent a letter with his proposal to the English astronomer William Herschel, suggesting that a search near the locations where the orbits of Ceres and Pallas intersected might reveal more fragments. These orbital intersections were located in the constellations of Cetus and Virgo.[14]

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