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A deep crust–mantle boundary in the asteroid 4 Vesta


The asteroid 4 Vesta was recently found to have two large impact craters near its south pole, exposing subsurface material. Modelling suggested that surface material in the northern hemisphere of Vesta came from a depth of about 20 kilometres, whereas the exposed southern material comes from a depth of 60 to 100 kilometres. Large amounts of olivine from the mantle were not seen, suggesting that the outer 100 kilometres or so is mainly igneous crust. Here we analyse the data on Vesta and conclude that the crust–mantle boundary (or Moho) is deeper than 80 kilometres.

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Figure 1: Pyroxenes composition in regions expected to expose mantle rocks.
Figure 2: Initial depths and mass fractions of rocks that escaped Vesta.
Figure 3: Potential internal structures for Vesta.


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M.J. acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Foundation through the Ambizione program. J.-A.B. acknowledges support from the INSU Programme National de Planétologie. E.I.A. was sponsored by the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.

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Authors and Affiliations



H.C. analysed data and led the research. M.J. performed the numerical simulations. P.G. initiated the collaboration and funded part of the research. All authors interpreted the results and contributed to the preparation of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Harold Clenet.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Olivine-diogenite spectra and MGM result for NWA4223.

Olivine–diogenite spectra from meteorites NWA5480 and NWA4223 (57% and 50% olivine respectively) and comparison with a spectrum from diogenite Tatahouine (orthopyroxenite). Spectra are represented in reflectance space (a) and with the continuum removed (b) for visual comparison of the shape of the absorption. The MGM result for the NWA4223 spectrum is represented in c. The parameters (from left to right the centre, width and strength are shown) for each Gaussian function (three for olivine and two for orthopyroxene), the continuum and the residual (root mean square, RMS) are reported. Olivine and pyroxene are both correctly detected. Opx, orthopyroxene; Ol, olivine.

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Clenet, H., Jutzi, M., Barrat, JA. et al. A deep crust–mantle boundary in the asteroid 4 Vesta. Nature 511, 303–306 (2014).

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