Science

The Vesta Asteroid… Er, Planet… Er, Object?

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Vesta asteroid/planet/protoplanetWhen you want to know more about something, you check it out, right? That’s exactly what scientists at NASA are doing.

They want to know more about an object in space they call Vesta. Is it an asteroid? A planet? What exactly is it?

Two months ago, they launched the Dawn spacecraft. Its job is to orbit and observe Vesta.

Vesta is officially listed by NASA as a “minor planet,” which means that it is an object orbiting around the sun.

But Vesta isn’t really a planet at all. It’s simply an object in space.

It has also been called an asteroid, a dwarf planet (a tiny planet), and a protoplanet, which is an object that started the same way as other planets, like Venus and Mercury, but never fully developed.

Vesta lies in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. That makes many people think it is an asteroid.

But there are a few reasons why some scientists think Vesta is not an asteroid.

First of all, Vesta is much brighter than any other asteroid near it, and it can been seen easily from Earth with a telescope.

It is also a lot bigger. Most asteroids are less than 100 km wide but Vesta is 530 km wide.

Also, Vesta is made up of several layers (the core, a mantle, and a crust) just like other planets, including Earth. It also has rocks, dust, and sand.

The Dawn spacecraft will continue to observe Vesta for about a year to learn more about it. Scientists at NASA will take photos and collect more information about Vesta so they can figure out exactly what it is.

In the coming months, we may all find out more about this interesting space object.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Looking out into a star-filled night sky often stirs our emotions and causes us to wonder. What do you think and feel when you look into the sky?

Reading Prompt
What is today’s article about? How do you know? What are the three most important ideas in the article?

Primary
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by identifying important ideas and some supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Junior
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Intermediate
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Grammar Feature: Expanding Sentences
The length of a sentence can be long, medium, or short. Short sentences are great for providing your reader with a small piece of information you want them to remember. A medium-length sentence often provides one piece of information with some supporting details. Lastly, a long sentence often contains more than one idea and has lots of detail.

Expand the short sentences below (#1 and #2) by rewriting them with more detail. Then shrink the long sentences (#3 and #4) by rewriting them without their details.

1. Vesta lies in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

2. It also has rocks, dust, and sand.

3. It has also been called an asteroid, a dwarf planet (a tiny planet), and a protoplanet, which is an object that started the same way as other planets, like Venus and Mercury, but never fully developed.

4. First of all, Vesta is much brighter than any other asteroid near it, and it can been seen easily from Earth with a telescope.