What is creating gullies on Vesta?

Dec 06, 2012
This image shows examples of long, narrow, sinuous gullies that scientists on NASA's Dawn mission have found on the giant asteroid Vesta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

(Phys.org)—In a preliminary analysis of images from NASA's Dawn mission, scientists have spotted intriguing gullies that sculpt the walls of geologically young craters on the giant asteroid Vesta. Led by Jennifer Scully, a Dawn team member at the University of California, Los Angeles, these scientists have found narrow channels of two types in images from Dawn's framing camera - some that look like straight chutes and others that carve more sinuous trails and end in lobe-shaped deposits. The mystery, however, is what is creating them?

The presentation on gullies is one of several that Dawn team members are making at this year's conference in San Francisco. Other topics include craters on Vesta, the giant asteroid's , and the distinctive dark and bright materials found on the surface.

This image shows a close-up of long, narrow, sinuous gullies that scientists on NASA's Dawn mission have found on the giant asteroid Vesta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

"The straight gullies we see on Vesta are textbook examples of flows of dry material, like sand, that we've seen on Earth's moon and we expected to see on Vesta," said Scully, who presented in-progress findings on these gullies today. "But these sinuous gullies are an exciting, unexpected find that we are still trying to understand."

The sinuous gullies are longer, narrower, and curvier than the short, wide, straight gullies. They tend to start from V-shaped, collapsed regions described as "alcoves" and merge with other gullies. Scientists think different processes formed the two types of gullies and have been looking at images of Earth, Mars and other small bodies for clues.

This image shows examples of straighter, shorter, wider gullies that scientists on NASA's Dawn mission have found on the giant asteroid Vesta. The crater shown here is called Fonteia. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

"On Earth, similar features - seen at places like Meteor Crater in Arizona—are carved by ," said Christopher Russell, Dawn's principal investigator, also based at UCLA. "On Mars, there is still a debate about what has caused them. We need to analyze the Vesta gullies very carefully before definitively specifying their source."

Indeed, scientists have suggested various explanations for gullies on Mars since fresh-looking gullies were discovered in images from 's Mars Global Surveyor in 2000. Some of the proposed Martian mechanisms involve water, some carbon dioxide, and some neither. One study in 2010 suggested that carbon-dioxide frost was causing fresh flows of sand on the Red Planet.

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User comments : 11

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Silverhill
5 / 5 (5) Dec 06, 2012
Clearly an example of plasma-mediated surface etching, in a thoroughly Electric Universe! *snerk*
ValeriaT
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 06, 2012
in a thoroughly Electric Universe
I do prefer the aether model instead..;-) IMO the regolite is behaving like the fluid - in particular when its grains are charged with particles of solar wind, so they tend to repulse mutually. Such a particle system would behave like the fluid and it could form streams, which are routinely observed in sedimentary rocks at both Earth deserts, both Mars. They're formed with flowing dust, not water in all cases.
jsdarkdestruction
4 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2012
"The mystery, however, is what is creating them?"
Indeed. Something cantdrive/hannes will desperately pounce on to attempt to advance his eu/pc worldveiw. then he will probably rant awhile about how no one pays attention to his ideas and he's ostracized from the scientific community.
Lurker2358
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 06, 2012
"On Earth, similar features - seen at places like Meteor Crater in Arizona—are carved by liquid water," said Christopher Russell, Dawn's principal investigator, also based at UCLA. "On Mars, there is still a debate about what has caused them. We need to analyze the Vesta gullies very carefully before definitively specifying their source."


Please, spare me the guesses.

Try landing a small probe on the thing and actually take samples or something.

I can guess too.

I guess relying on one mechanism or explanation only is folly, and will always leave you with something unexplainable.

No one process caused the current condition, but rather the sum of all processes within the light sphere of the object in question throughout it's history.

Since that's really hard to understand, you can stick to the sum of all local processes for now.
VendicarD
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2012
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (10) Dec 07, 2012
Yeah, why in the world would we consider a legitimate explanation that can satisfy the morphology of all the features mentioned. I think the rivers of dirt idea is swell, I'm sure that's what carved the many slot canyons in the SW. I remember those days so fondly, a kid growing up in Phoenix, kicking around in the dirt rivers. Funny thing about those dirt rivers in and around Phoenix, they never seemed to flow except for in the spring when the runoff flowed out of the mountains. Never really saw any flowing dirt though. I'm sure it's quite the sight, flowing dirt causing sinuous channels that end in lobe-shaped deposits. I guess when the dirt is done flowing, it just seeps down into the other dirt that chose not to flow. Oh crap, I gotta go, my grass is halfway down the block. I need a taller fence.
Lurker2358
4 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2012
Asteroid worms.

http://www.youtub...xkirEDrA


How many star ships you figure that guy would need to eat to get that big?
rubberman
3 / 5 (2) Dec 07, 2012
Asteroid worms.

http://www.youtub...xkirEDrA


I just spit my coffee out....very nice.

or..

http://youtu.be/XM2oeRuJ28k
baudrunner
1.2 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2012
Yeah, let's analyze the weirdness of this moon and ignore the blatant strangeness of Miranda, which shows such obvious signs of tampering that it shames one to do so. I think we're going to find out that most of the solar system has already been studied and analyzed to death long before we were born. The real question is, "who was there before us?".
VendicarD
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2012
Ahhhh Mmmmmmmmmmmiraaaaaaaaaaannnnnnndaaaaaaaaaaaaa........

https://www.googl...=miranda kerr&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=SeTDUPOTDcblyAG7woHQDw&ved=0CLUBEIke&biw=1164&bih=781
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2012
Ahhhh Mmmmmmmmmmmiraaaaaaaaaaannnnnnndaaaaaaaaaaaaa........

https://www.googl...=miranda kerr&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=SeTDUPOTDcblyAG7woHQDw&ved=0CLUBEIke&biw=1164&bih=781


Hottie