Exploring exogenic sources for the olivine on Asteroid (4) Vesta

Lucille Le Corre, Vishnu Reddy, Juan A. Sanchez, Tasha Dunn, Edward A. Cloutis, Matthew R.M. Izawa, Paul Mann, Andreas Nathues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The detection of olivine on Vesta is interesting because it may provide critical insights into planetary differentiation early in our Solar System's history. Ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations of Asteroid (4) Vesta have suggested the presence of olivine on the surface. These observations were reinforced by the discovery of olivine-rich HED meteorites from Vesta in recent years. However, analysis of data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft has shown that this "olivine-bearing unit" is actually impact melt in the ejecta of Oppia crater. The lack of widespread mantle olivine, exposed during the formation of the 19. km deep Rheasilvia basin on Vesta's South Pole, further complicated this picture. Ammannito et al. (Ammannito, E. et al. [2013a]. Nature 504, 122-125) reported the discovery of local scale olivine-rich units in the form of excavated material from the mantle using the Visible and InfraRed spectrometer (VIR) on Dawn. These sites are concentrated in the walls and ejecta of craters Arruntia (10.5 km in diameter) and Bellicia (41.7 km in diameter), located in the northern hemisphere, 350-430 km from Rheasilvia basin's rim. Here we explore alternative sources for the olivine in the northern hemisphere of Vesta by reanalyzing the data from the VIR instrument using laboratory spectral measurements of meteorites. Our rationale for using the published dataset was to bypass calibration issues and ensure a consistent dataset between the two studies. Our analysis of the VIR data shows that while the interpretation of their spectra as an olivine-rich unit is correct, the nature and origin of that olivine could be more complicated. We suggest that these olivine exposures could also be explained by the delivery of olivine-rich exogenic material. This hypothesis is supported by meteoritical evidence in the form of exogenic xenoliths containing significant amount of olivine in some of the HED meteorites from Vesta. Previous laboratory work on HEDs show that potential sources of olivine on Vesta could be different types of olivine-rich meteorites, either primitive achondrites (acapulcoites, lodranites, ureilites), ordinary chondrites (H, L, LL), pallasites, or carbonaceous chondrites (e.g., CV). Based on our spectral band parameters analysis, the lack of correlation between the location of these olivine-rich terrains and possible mantle-excavating events, and supported by observations of HED meteorites, we propose that a probable source for the olivine seen in the northern hemisphere corresponds to remnants of impactors made of olivine-rich meteorites. The best curve-matching results with laboratory spectra suggest these units are HED material mixed with either ordinary chondrites, or with some olivine-dominated meteorites such as R-chondrites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-499
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroid Vesta
  • Asteroids, composition
  • Asteroids, surfaces
  • Mineralogy
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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