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4 Vesta

Do you enjoy watching the rugby game? If you do, then there is no need to explain to you about that strange shape of the rugby ball the players use. Yeah, it is not round; it is oval shaped,  and there is an asteroid out there in the Main Asteroid Belt that brings to your mind exactly that; a rugby ball, with its characteristic oblong appearance. An inflated rugby ball would weigh about half a kilo in your hand. But this asteroid, the brightest of asteroids visible from earth, weighs about 2.6×1020 kg and contributes to 9% of the entire mass of the Main Asteroid Belt. 


The Main Asteroid Belt is a cloud of space debris that exists in the shape of a rubber tube (like the ones you use during swimming) around the sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. After Ceres, 4 Vesta or Vesta as it is also known as is the second largest asteroid among the floating cloud of rocks, pebbles and dust that we call the Main Asteroid Belt.

Picture above of Asteroid 4 Vesta / Vesta 




The first asteroid to be discovered was Ceres which was the largest of the asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt. Vesta is the fourth and according to the numbering of asteroids in their order of discovery, its name is written as 4 Vesta. 4 Vesta was discovered by Heinrich Olbers on 29th March 1807 and was named after the Roman goddess of home and hearth.




It was the NASA spacecraft ‘Dawn’ that carried out a detailed surveillance over the surface 4 Vesta in 2011. Its most prominent feature was two enormous craters; Rheasilvia and Veneneia. Sounds odd, right! 

That might be because all these names had come from Roman mythology linked to the goddess Vesta. In addition to the twin craters, there are several others that pockmark the rocky terrain of 4 Vesta. Aelia Crater, Feralia Planitia and “Snowman Craters” are some of them.



Another unique characteristic of 4 Vesta’s surface is its troughs which are believed to have been formed by the ‘ripple effect’ of the impact that makes a crater. 4 Vesta troughs have been identified as some of the longest chasams in the Solar system; The largest trough Dialia Fossa dwarfs the Grand Canyon.


Vesta is an amazing object, and look at the picture below to see its size comparison to the other four largest asteroids. It is number two.





Kids Fun Facts Corner


#1. The orbital speed of 4 Vesta is about 20 kilometers per second. That means, starting from your home, 4 Vesta can go to your nearest city within seconds. The orbital speed of Earth is about 30 kilometers per second.


#2. Orbital speed is the speed a space object travels in orbit around another space object. Earth’s orbital speed is the speed it travels in orbit around the Sun. Likewise, 4 Vesta’s orbital speed is the speed it travels in orbit around, well yes, again, the Sun.


#3. Both the Earth and 4 Vesta are in orbit around the Sun. Similarly, in addition to the planets of the solar system, about 2 million asteroids are in orbit around the Sun. They exist as a cloud in the shape of a rubber tube (like the ones you use during swimming, as told above) around the sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. 


#4. Since asteroids are orbiting the Sun just like other planets, they are called minor planets. 


#5. It is the gravitational pull of Jupiter that keeps this millions of space litter from flying all over the place and bombarding the inner planets of the solar system; Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.


Q&A Corner


Q. When was 4 Vesta discovered?

Q. Who discovered Vesta?

Q. Why is number 4 included in the name of 4 Vesta?

Q. What are the two unique geographical features of 4 Vesta?

Q. What is the orbital speed of 4 Vesta?




Download questions about 4 Vesta here: 4 Vesta (answers are on this page)

Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on Asteroids. Click on Kidskonnect. Worksheets

This articles was quest written by Chinthaka Nanayakkara @ Write Support. Write Support is an Organiser of Mini e-book Writing Projects. 



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