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Asteroid 4 Vesta: Dynamical and collisional evolution during the Late Heavy Bombardment

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Icarus Volume 271, June 2016, Pages 170-179
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Asteroid 4 Vesta is the only currently identified asteroid for which we possess samples in the form of meteorites. These meteorites revealed us that Vesta is a differentiated body and that its differentiation produced a relatively thin basaltic crust that survived intact over its entire collisional history. The survival of the vestan basaltic crust has long been identified as a pivotal constraint in the study of the evolution of the asteroid belt and the Solar System but, while we possess a reasonably good picture of the effects of the last 4 Ga on such a crust, little is known about the effects of earlier events like the Late Heavy Bombardment. In this work we address this gap in our knowledge by simulating the Late Heavy Bombardment on Vesta in the different dynamical scenarios proposed for the migration of the giant planets in the broad framework of the Nice Model. The results of the simulations allowed us to assess the collisional history of the asteroid during the Late Heavy Bombardment in terms of produced crater population, surface saturation, mass loss and mass gain of Vesta and number of energetic or catastrophic impacts. Our results reveal that planet–planet scattering is a dynamically favorable migration mechanism for the survival of Vesta and its crust. The number of impacts of asteroids larger than about 1 km in diameter estimated as due to the LHB is 31 ± 5, i.e. about 5 times larger than the number of impacts that would have occurred in an unperturbed main belt in the same time interval. The contribution of a possible extended belt to the collisional evolution of Vesta during the LHB is quite limited and can be quantified in 2 ± 1 impacts of asteroids with diameter greater than or equal to 1 km. The chance of energetic and catastrophic impacts is less than 10% and is compatible with the absence of giant craters dated back to 4 Ga ago and with the survival of the asteroid during the Late Heavy Bombardment. The mass loss caused by the bombardment translates in the erosion of m of the crust, consistently with the global survival of the basaltic crust of Vesta confirmed by the Dawn mission. Our analysis revealed that the contribution of the LHB to the cratering of Vesta’ surface is not significant and is actually erased by the crater population produced by the following 4 Ga of collisional evolution of the asteroid, in agreement with the data provided by the Dawn mission.

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