May 10th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Space rock Vesta promoted to ‘protoplanet’

Vesta, the second-largest object in our solar system's asteroid belt, is a protoplanet, according to research released Thursday. Scientists reviewed data from the Dawn spacecraft orbiting Vesta and concluded that Vesta is protoplanet that survived numerous collisions with other space rocks since it formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.

"Dawn’s mission at Vesta has been a spectacular success. It’s transformed Vesta from a fuzzy orb into a planetary body," said Carol Raymond, the deputy principal investigator for Dawn at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Becoming a protoplanet is an upgrade from Vesta’s previous designation as an asteroid or minor planet. It means Vesta’s structure shows it has a dense, layered body and orbits the sun, like the Earth and other rocky planets. Vesta didn’t quite make it to full-fledged planet, but Raymond said it's more like a planet than an asteroid.

“Vesta’s history appears to be more similar to rocky, terrestrial planets - Mars, Mercury and the Earth’s moon - than to its larger sibling, the dwarf planet Ceres,” Raymond said at a briefing announcing new research data on Vesta.

According to NASA, a large rocky body orbiting the sun is called an asteroid or minor planet. Much smaller particles in orbit about the sun are referred to as meteoroids. Protoplanets share more of the materials and structure of planets like Earth, Mercury and Mars, but something interrupted their development, and they never quite made it to planetary status.

Vesta is between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system’s main asteroid belt. It is about as long as Arizona: 359 by 348 by 285 miles (about 578 by 560 by 458 kilometers). There are about 440,000 known asteroids in the region, but scientists say there could be millions that haven’t been discovered. Most are very small.

Researchers also confirmed that Vesta is the “parent” of a common type of meteorite found on Earth. Called howardite-eucrite-diogenites, or HEDs, they make up about 6% of the meteorites that fall to Earth. Scientists think these meteorites come from a giant impact basin at Vesta’s South Pole called Rheasilvia. That area also is believed to be where small asteroids, called Vestoids, come from.

Images and data from Dawn are giving researchers details about the shape and composition of Vesta. They say it is covered with impact craters, steep slopes and large troughs.

 “Vesta has a concentration of mass at its center proving that it is a differentiated body with an iron core, a silicate mantle and a less dense basaltic crust, the same as Mercury and Mars, the Earth and the moon,” Raymond said.

Dawn also has given scientists a much better look at the Rheasilvia basin. Data show that it’s a nearly circular impact basin about 310 miles (500 kilometers) in diameter.

“Vesta is special because it survived the intense collisional environment of the main asteroid belt for billions of years allowing us to interrogate a key witness to the events at the very beginning of the solar system,” Raymond added. “We believe Vesta is the only intact member of a family of similar bodies that have since perished.”

Earlier research from Dawn gave the most detailed information to date about the surface temperature of any asteroid visited by a spacecraft. Researchers reported earlier that data show Vesta’s temperatures range from minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-23 degrees Celsius) in its sunny spots to minus-150 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-100 degrees Celsius) in the shadows.

The Dawn space probe, carrying a visible light camera, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 27, 2007. After it finishes exploring Vesta, it will travel to the dwarf planet Ceres in February 2015.

Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, is about the size of Texas(606 by 565 miles, or 975 by 909 kilometers). Astronomers think water ice may be buried under Ceres' crust and estimate that if Ceres is composed of 25% water, it may have more water than all the fresh water on Earth. But if it does have all that water, it’s likely to be frozen in Ceres’ mantle.

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soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Criminal Law Defense Lawyer

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    May 7, 2013 at 4:31 am |
  2. Sharp

    "And only I am 'scaped to tell the tale." Shakespeare (I think) If the rock could only speak; It could have been part of West Texas or New Rochelle.

    May 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Sharp

      The last Protoplanet standing.

      May 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  3. Bored

    Oh that's cool. The U.S has never lost a war when donkeys were in use. True story.

    May 11, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  4. Kelly5

    The CNN announcers revealed their ignorance by not acknowledging that the Earth is also an oblate spheroid.

    May 11, 2012 at 5:20 am |
  5. krehator

    Great to see so many people turning every article into a political debate or opportunity to slur a candidate. The bottom of the barrel pretending to have integirty and intelligence. American at its best!

    WE ARE DOOMED.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Sharp

      @#$%%! Fanatics; Fascists & Communists & Islamic Fundamentalists & all the rest. Wish we could send all fanatics to Vesta & let them fight over it. Then the rest of us could get on with trying to get along with each other.

      May 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  6. dudley0415

    I want Andrew to give us another space lesson! He's my hero! The very first super hero named after a-whole-lot-of-Wikipedia-crap-that-no-one-really-cares-about powers.

    May 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Andrew

      It's not wikipedia crap, I'm a physics major, it's 'a whole lot of coursework crap'.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  7. dudley0415

    NewsFlash – scientists have decided to re-categorize a rock in space, which means that the rock is evolving!

    This is news?

    But New Horizons is a cool program, make no mistake.

    May 11, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Michael500ca

      Vesta does change for long periods of time, but it is not evolving. Also, this mission is the Dawn mission. New Horizons is on its way to Pluto.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  8. peace

    EVERYBODY NEEDS TO SO FIGHTING YO! WHO CARES IF THE EARTHS ORBIT IS AN OVAL OR IF THE ASTEROID IS TO SMALL!!!!!!! WORLD PEACE

    May 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  9. Peikovianyi

    Once Joe Biden called it a protoplanet, they had no choice. He apologized later.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Now that's funny, right t'ere.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  10. R Danger

    Mayby Newt Gingrench will want to bulid a colony there as well.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  11. b a

    2012 the world wIll be end.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Michael500ca

      What makes you think that?

      May 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  12. b a

    money is the king. babe

    May 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  13. Ken

    It's an interesting find, but when they say it's 4.5 billion years old I have to be skeptical. That's just all based on theory and has yet to be proven.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • stephanurus

      That is an ignorant comment, betraying a lack of understanding of the word "theory" when used in a scientific context. Also, science is NOT about "proving" things, but finding explanations for observations.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
      • dan

        so basically u called him a moron and proved no basis for it. good job. he was right, they have no idea how old it is by just simply flying a probe around it.

        May 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
      • Andrew

        Dan, we have very good reasons to understand the age of the solar system, consistant results tend to indicate something to scientists.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
      • M. F. Luder

        Sad to see so many ignorant people here. I would think that the Belief Blog is more their speed.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
      • Jim

        Luder: It's CNN, what do you expect?

        Andrew: What makes you think its been with the solar system since its inception? Duhh

        Dan: Right on.

        May 11, 2012 at 12:02 am |
      • Andrew

        Jim, because the nearest solar system is 4 lightyears away, and is gravitationally locked in that solar system. Space in between solar systems is pretty much void of anything. Getting a rock to enter our solar system from a minimum of 4 lightyears away is somewhat like shooting a bow and arrow from miles away trying to hit an object the size of a pin.

        And that's pretending there's an easy mechanism to send a rock here, but again, rocks are gravitationally bound in their respective solar systems, so I don't even understand how our solar system would collect rocks from outside.

        May 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Andrew

      For your edification, they say it's that old because we have numerous things called "meteors", which are chunks of rocks that come crashing down towards earth. Most burn up on entry, but some make it all the way down to the ground and these are called 'meteorites'. Now, these 'meteorites' likely came from our solar system, because there's very slim chance that rocks came from other solar systems when the nearest solar system to us is 4 lightyears away. So, we look at meteorites, and we can determine their age, and thus determine how long ago the meteorites (and thus, the solar system) formed.

      What ends up happening is that we have this thing called 'radiometric dating'. Many creationists like to pretend that we only have carbon dating, but that's simply not true, and with meteorites we normally will use isochron dating (which removes risk of 'contamination') and lead-lead or uranium-lead dating (or some form of dating with long half-lives)

      As it happens, we've done this for many, many different meteorites and all find that to within a first order approximation, the age is around 4 billion years old.

      But it gets better than that! We also know that the sun burns hydrogen at a certain rate, and we know that while it is a 3rd generation star, the majority of the star was still hydrogen when it first formed. We can then extrapolate from that the approximate age of the sun, which, surprise surprise, is also 4 billion years old. (We actually have other methods of determining the age of the sun, some pertaining to 'seismic' activity in the sun, but I'm far less well versed on those methods so I'm sticking to easy to grasp stuff)

      There is, also, methods in general like the uranium 235 to uranium 238 ratio, because it's assumed that in a supernova both substances would have been produced in roughly the same amount, but of course they decay at very different rates. So we can measure the relative abundance of U-235 to U-238 to get an approximate time-frame on the super nova that sparked our solar system, which tends to come in on the order of around 5 billion years.

      Scientists really do have a lot of methdods for dating the solar system.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
      • Agony Flips

        Ah, like music to my ears. Thanks for articulating that so well. You should have also explained the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. Seams the word theory has taken a such a beating that it's even listed in the oxford dictionary as how it's used incorrectly, since it's done so often.

        May 11, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • bman

      Yes and the world is flat and here be monsters. I'll take 4.5 billion years over that any day.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Fritz

      I think they mean that the asteroid is at least as old as the Earth. Scientists believe the Earth, Sun and the planets are about the same age having coalesced out of a primordial disc of nebular hydrogen mixed with the elemental detritus from long dead stars throughout the galaxy.. No one can know how long that process took but I tend to think it took a very long time as we humans measure it. Vesta is probably old almost beyond human imagination.

      May 11, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Michael500ca

      Debris from Vesta, which is responsible for 1 out of 20 meteorites that find their way to Earth, has been radiometric dated to 4.5 billions years ago. That is a fact, regardless whether you believe it or not.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  14. bman

    Im not impressed I want Pluto back.

    May 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • DumbScience

      How dumb can these scientist be. They removed Pluto which had a body larger than any of these here and now they're saying that these smaller than Pluto asteroids are almost planets. What a bunch of idiots.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
      • Tim Rigney

        There's dozens if not hundreds of objects of the same size as Pluto, if not larger, in the same region. It's called the "Kuiper Belt." There's really no sound reason for it to be called a planet when those other hundreds of objects aren't. They weren't aware of the many, many other Kuiper Belt objects when the tiny little rock known as Pluto was discovered.

        May 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
      • Mike

        If it makes you feel any better, they don't really care what we call them.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Russell Kollaja

      I agree i want Pluto back

      May 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
      • dudley0415

        "Plu-to-ca! Plu-to-ca!"

        May 11, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Michael500ca

      Pluto is still there. When the asteroid Ceres was originally discovered, it was classified as a planet too until they found more in the same orbit and realized it was the asteroid belt and demoted Ceres.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  15. joe

    Soo, that crater at the south pole is almost as big as the entire thing... that's some big ass&ole

    May 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  16. Yoda

    When you wish upon a star, makes no difference what you are,.... you just are !

    May 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • dudley0415

      "When you wish upon a protoplanet.....makes no difference......"

      Nah. doesn't work.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  17. El Flaco

    I know what this is all about. This is an effort by the Astronomy World Council to diffuse rage caused by the demotion of Pluto to a less-than-planet status. Well, it's not going to work. We know what they are up to, and we won't stand for it.

    It's either Pluto is a planet or nothing! We will not be bought off by some 'proto' planet! I am so offended!

    May 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • DumbScience

      I totally agree.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Michael500ca

      You actually mean the International Astronomical Union and Pluto's demotion was done democratically. Get your facts straight. Pluto is a dwarf planet.

      May 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  18. Genold

    Did anyone catch that the orbits of the planets were depicted as circles in the graphic instead of ellipses? Now people will start to believe that the planets orbit around the sun in circles because they saw it on CNN.

    May 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Tim Rigney

      Look into the percentages; percentage-wise the orbits of all the planets except Mercury and Pluto are actually VERY close to being circles.
      Don't believe everything they taught you in school. ;) The orbit of the Earth varies by a couple of million miles from perigee to apogee; *percentage*-wise that's practically a circle.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
      • El Flaco

        Let's see. Two million divided by ninety-three million (as I recall) equals 2.1505376344086021505376344086022 %. That looks like a big number to me. And it has a lot of 8's and 6's in it.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
      • Les

        0.021505376344086 is the answer to 2 million divided by 93 million. A VERY small number. I think you forgot to put the decimal in the right place.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • joe

      Comments like that are just lame! What did you expect? Do you think people would even care? The only reason you said anything is to make yourself look better...guess what, it backfired!

      May 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • justapost

      But an ellipse when viewed at certain angles can be circles...

      May 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
      • Barney

        You mean a circle when viewed at an angle looks like an ellipse.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
      • Barney

        An ellipse looks like, and is in fact, a circle if the foci are coincident.

        May 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Balanced_Fair

      Take a closer look: Mars, Ceres and Vesta are in elliptical orbits. The Sun is not at the center of these orbits, meaning that the Sun is at a focus of an ellipse. They appear circular because their eccentricities are small relative to a highly elliptical orbit, such as many comets.

      Also, the Earth does not have a "perigee" and "apogee"; that implies that Earth orbits itself. Earth has a "perihelion" and an "aphelion".

      It is good that Vesta has been promoted, but it should be a dwarf planet. "Proto-planet" means nothing except to confuse us further.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  19. JS

    Why is it that when it's done by business and it doesn't work out, it's the free market working, but when government tries something, it's waste?

    May 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  20. stanton

    DOESN'T ANY ONE HAVE AN INTELLIGENT THING TO SAY ANY MORE?????

    May 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • butch

      While it's nice to learn more about our solar system through private funding, we're wasting ever dime we give to NASA and I don't care what those people find or figure out. We're never going to get off of this planet because there is nowhere within at least a million lifetimes for us to go. Nothing can be done about anything that comes from space and lands on Earth, whether it be rocks or aliens. We aren't going to be harvesting diamonds from the moon or digging for oil on mars so get it out of your heads. Not one penny that was ever spent on NASA has done this country or this planet any good. It's time to stop the madness.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
      • alkhuu

        While it's nice to learn more about wooly mammoths and sabertooths, we're wasting every bit of meat and fur we give to those cave artists and I don't care what those people find or figure out. We're never going to get out of this cave or this valley because there is nowhere within at least a million lifetimes for us to go. Nothing can be done about anything that comes from the outside or from the seas. We aren't going to be hunting mammoths beyond the mountains or sail across the seas. Not one piece of meat that was ever spent on the cave artists and dreamers has done this tribe any good. It's time to stop the madness and get back into your cave.

        May 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
      • butch

        there's a big difference between miles and light years. while you're being a smartass, why don't you educate the world on how to propel human beings faster than the speed of light, or explain where we will harvest the energy to power a wormhole big enough to fit a human.

        yeah. you can't. because it isn't possible. because there are things called laws of physics.

        next...

        May 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
      • Adam

        Here are a few things developed from NASA:
        Invisible Braces, Scratch-Resistant Lenses, Memory Foam, Ear Thermometer, Shoe Insoles, Long-distance Telecommunications, Adjustable Smoke Detectors, Safety Grooving (In Roads) , Cordless Tools, Water Filters.

        Just a few things you might use. And this is not including the 6300 patents they have filed. And this is not including the enormous amount of work they have done with airplanes and spacecraft, not to mention SATELLITES. We use though every day. NASA has been one of the more successful gov agencies and its a shame we are letting it die. Figure out some facts before spouting your nonsense

        May 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
      • butch

        Privately funded researchers and corporations would have eventually developed every bit of that at a fraction of what was actually paid. Necessity is the mother of invention. Not NASA.

        May 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
      • Tom

        alright Mr butch... lemme list some things for you. you are ignorant. this is what NASA has "invented" just to name a few.
        The hand-held vacuum cleaner, Firefighter breathing apparatus, Safer runways, carbon fiber (used in everything), Pill transmitters (for the medical community which measures BP etc), Teflon fiberglass (many big buildings use it, if you actually "have" a job NASA has helped kept the building stable above your head so you don't die...), storm warning systems, the practice to protect timeless art, Car crash technology, Plane wing-tips (which add lift extending range/reducing fuel consumption), Freeze-dried meals, oh and considering you think NASA is pointless how about this. Got kids? well they developed Baby food, Heart surgery (the lasers were developed by NASA, Life support for patients, Artificial limbs, Improved air quality, Satellite television....
        so now Mr butch... who is ignorant... maybe you should learn to read more instead of staying indoors thinking you know everything...

        May 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
      • butch

        cool story bro. credit to Wikipedia on that post. doesn't change the fact that the private sector would have developed most, if not all of that stuff eventually, and at hundredths of what we actually paid. how the hell did babies ever make it in this world without nasa's baby food?!?! oh yeah. they drank milk and ate real food. keep drinkin' the kool-aid, man.
        ;)

        May 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
      • Warp Speed Nine

        Well, warping space/time would satisfy all practical and life support problems related to superluminous travel but it would require about as much energy as all of the matter in Jupiter

        Using the sun and other stars to power the missions? Well...

        May 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
      • jimmy the freak

        We do it for fun, dude.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
      • CW

        Someone's been drinking the Republican kool-aid...

        May 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
      • JS

        Hey Butch...would you mind defining "eventually" for us. I'm sure eventually the private sector will figure out a way to keep old people out of the streets when they're no longer able to work, but they ain't gonna do it soon. There was no private effort to go to space until visionaries gained public funding to make it a possibility. No company would ever say "boy, I bet our business could be done more efficiently if we just invest a couple of trillion dollars over 50 years to get to the point that we can have a global positioning system that lets us map where our trucks and ships are", and nobody was sitting there with the same idea and the ability to gain investor financing to do the same thing and then lease the system out. While some of the materials science would have likely been eventually done by companies, there would have also been no guarantee that those patents would be held by American ones, and there would be no guarantee of time lines. Modern corporations have proven that once they reach maturity, the stop innovating and start trading off their R&D for efficiency in the name of preserving their "core businesses". Raw free market economics creates businesses that incur just enough risk (and thus do just enough work) to create just enough profit to keep their shareholders from getting upset. If the type of innovation created by NASA was the hallmark of private industry, we'd have cars that get 100mpg on the road right now.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
      • joe

        Maybe not in this day and age! Galileo was locked up for saying the earth revolved around the sun! To say it's impossible just shows how narrow minded you are!

        May 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
      • Agony Flips

        @Butch,

        While your waiting for private companies to invest in the space program, in the mean time the soviet union has created a monopoly in space, including offensive nuclear attack weapons. That and maybe they've already blown up the US as their first strike weapons have come down while we lacked the satellites to tell us they were bombing us.

        Where the hell were you during history class? Have you forgotten about the Soviet Union? Do you not remember the Cold War?

        May 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
      • deedubya

        While everybody is so busy listing all the tangible benefits from NASA what about good old knowledge for knowledge's sake? Isn't anybody interested in just learning more about the universe we live in, even if it never results in growing a better potato?

        May 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
      • Les

        Butch:

        Hate to burst your bubble but space exploration has given us teflon, advanced ceramics, extremely precise ball bearings, sophisticated computer technology, food processing and storage progress, improved fire fighting capability, miniaturization of electronics, mylar and other plastics....Physics, medicine, metal alloys, engineering. imaging technology, etc. You really should do some research before making such blanket statements.

        I don't know what plant you hail from but space science has made improvements in many things that everyday earthlings take for granted. The list goes on and on and many, if not all, of these technological advances would never have been possible without the space program in place.,

        May 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Adam

      Your right about necessity. Theses objects were needed for space travel. And without that push back in the 60s who knows how long these products would have taken to be made. There is of course waste, but this agency it is actually producing products that help everyone. I would much rather have NASA around then many other departments in our government.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • joe

      lol...you ask that in here? All these forums do is serve the clueless morons who bash the US.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Fritz

      Ya want something intelligent from a human? Hey, we're barely 5 million years out of the trees. Ya can't expect miracles. ;op

      May 11, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  21. cybercmdr

    Now if we could just figure out how to kick Ceres into a collision course with Mars, we could dump a lot of water (and heat) onto the planet. Might be interesting to see if that could make Mars more habitable.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Tr1Xen

      Would be impractical, expensive, and likely dangerous. Don't count on it!

      May 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • chibidw

        Impractical? Expensive? Likely dangerous? Why...my dear boy, that's exactly -why- we should do it! For science!

        May 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
      • CW

        Could always get the Mythbusters to try it.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
      • Tim Rigney

        There's unimaginably huge profits over the LONG run. We literally need to invest hundreds of billions in order to make hundreds of trillions.
        Problem is – we'll *die* as a race if we don't. Don't believe me? Sit down and think about it. No really – sit down and really *think* about it.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • butch

      it doesn't have a magnetic field. no magnetic field, no habitable.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
      • Science Nerd

        Well it is believed that it used to have a magnetic field. So who knows maybe adding some mass and energy could get it started again.

        May 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
      • Simon

        Solar Shielding

        May 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  22. Xzanthius

    Getting ready to start prospecting for resources in that area... good time to start properly charting and classifying the terrain. Personally I am all for the "demotion" of Pluto if it was warranted to offer it a proper delineation. When we first blasted off into space we had very prmitive ideas of the objects were were (and are still) going to come across.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  23. TheOtherMike

    Here's a simple formula for separating asteroids from dwarf planets and protoplanets. If an object has enough gravity to force it into a spherical shape, it can be some kind of ...planet. If it doesn't, and it looks more like a potato, it is an asteroid. By this measurement, Ceres is a protoplanet or a dwarf planet. Vesta is an asteroid. Sorry Vesta, you've been demoted.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jessica

      Vesta is fairly round and not anything like a "potato" asteroid. I think that the proto-planet status is correct.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  24. bsc1216

    I'm sure Bush will send troops out there, just like he sent them to Iraq for no reason...!!

    May 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Robert

      *Boggle*

      May 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Candide

      Got any timely Vietnam jokes for us?

      May 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Victor

      Bush: the first outer-space President!!

      May 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • TheThinker

      Hmm, Prez Obama sends troops to Darfur and the Left fringe couldn't care less, but Angry German kid feels compelled to W-bash in spite of no rellevance. At all.

      May 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • joe

      How pathetic! Morons always seem to find their way in!

      May 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • DumbScience

      Mmmm one of these asteroids is the size of Texas, now that something interesting. lol

      May 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  25. tom

    Guess some people need a little more technical education. A oblate spheroid is the opposite of a prolate spheroid (read that as a football)

    May 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  26. Bill

    Dear Scientists,
    Ever since you tried to "demote" Pluto from planet status, we pretty much have all started ignoring your silliness. But since you don't seem to care, and are more interested in writing scientific papers no one will read, and patting each other on the back, please feel free to continue with your absurdities.
    Sincerely,
    The remainder of the world, who will continue calling Pluto a planet

    May 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Dan in Tampa

      Your comment is boring to anyone who actually thinks...

      May 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Francesco

      That computer you are using: invented by scientists.
      The internet this is hosted on: invented by scientists.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
      • guest

        internet was invented by al gore.

        May 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Tim Rigney

      There's dozens if not hundreds of objects of the same size as Pluto or larger; it's called the "Kuiper Belt." So by your logic, *all* of those objects should be called "planets" and should have names that everyone should memorize. Pluto's not special in any way compared to all those other Kuiper Belt objects.
      They weren't aware of them when Pluto was first discovered.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  27. AlSyyed

    This is all nonsense. The Earth is flat and the center of the universe. All these commets, planets, including the Sun orbit the earth. Evolution is heretical. Gay marriage is evil. Obama is the devil.

    May 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Hammer

      I hope you're kidding. I really do, because I had hoped people like you were close to extinct.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
      • Fritz

        Hey, don't underestimate these people. They are tenacious and quite numerous among us. I'm surrounded by these kinds of folks deep in the mountains where I live. I've learned long ago not to tangle with or debate these people. You cannot sway them because their psychological conditioning stemming from religious indoctrination make them unable to think rationally. It is pervasive anong most american christian folks. As for their leadership, I learned it's better not to dive into the debate pit with them because that's really all they want. To be raised up to the level of the scientist by pulling true scientists into their debate trap. That's why scientists are better off just ignoring these people.

        May 11, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • joe

      ...and Allah is is a pedophile!

      May 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Daniel

      But guys gives better head. It's a historical fact.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  28. John from where I am

    Alright. Now they are just making up names for things to justify getting paid. An asteroid is an asteroid. Maybe since they call Pluto a "dwarf planet" they should just call this a "bigassasteroid".

    May 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Johnny

      Apparently you need to retake 7th grade science. Sorry to hear that.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Tim Rigney

      It's admittedly a publicity gimmick but that's a large part of the job. ;) 'Ya gotta have money 'ta make money.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Fritz

      Heh! Good one! I like that! I wouldn't mind if they renamed Jupiter...'Biggaasssplanet'. Everyone would know we're talking about a planet instead of some old dried up roman god.

      May 11, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  29. Zen'ichi

    I can't wait to see what the Tony Orlando probe finds...

    May 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • John from where I am

      eeeewww.. I sure don't!

      May 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Fritz

      Can't launch the Orlando probe. It would discover all those yellow ribbons tied around those astrorocks. How would the scientists explain it?

      May 11, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  30. Daniel

    And Pluto was tossed aside just like that.
    Like what?
    Just like that! Kicked to the curb.
    I feel sorry for Pluto. Is that strange?

    May 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Tim Rigney

      The thing is that there's actually dozens if not hundreds of objects of the same size or larger in that same area. It's called the "Kuiper Belt." They just weren't aware of that when Pluto was first discovered.

      May 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
      • DumbScience

        There's not much they're aware of.

        May 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  31. TC

    Tomorrow's Headline: Pluto files discrimination lawsuit

    May 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      Tomorrows headline: Obammer profits off gay planet rights.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
      • Butthead

        lol. Let there be anarchy in the universe. Tea-planets unite.

        May 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  32. Butthead

    I guess this would be Obama's war on the planets and asteroids!

    May 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      But but but, he got the Nobel Peace prize for peace...

      May 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
      • Kmac499

        Panty raid–your an idot

        May 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  33. aoneone

    What about the idea that there used to be once a planet that was within the asteroid belt, so after some terrible collision billions and billions ago, that caused the asteroid belt as we know it, and as for a couple of planet looking asteroids, they tried to reform as a planet but did not collect enought heat and spin to form, so when that was lost, you see those 2 proto-planet like objects we see today? did that ever ring a bell into your idiotic minds? simply mind boggling really...

    May 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Clint

      That particular area of space between Mars and Jupiter is not a good piece of real estate if your in the planet forming business. Jupiter tends to perturb orbits with its large mass and keeps things bumping each other. So most likely a planet never formed in this region, maybe several protoplanets but some became moons of Jupiter(which has a lot of them) and others became pinballs for the inner planets.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Astronomer

      A number of studies support the fact that the tidal forces of Jupiter and other planets kept the asteroid belt from forming a planet in the first place. We see this in other solar systems. No need for an exploding planet.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Terran18

      Run on sentence. Totally mind boggling.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
      • Tim Rigney

        Pssst – Good writers don't actually *care* if a sentence is a "run-on" sentence or not. That's just English teachers talking – they're using an old model which is essentially intended to teach "business English." Business English may be a good talent to have but it's not required anywhere outside of, uhm – business.

        May 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
      • Spaceballs

        And I thought good grammar, spelling, and punctuation was useful for effective communication...I learn something new every day! (sarcasm implied)

        May 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • djwazu

      What about these 2 idiots on the video! Jeez don't they have real nerds for GOD sakes.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  34. Badly-Bent

    I suppose that it does not have enough gravity to hold onto anything that hits it which means it is being slowly sandpapered away?

    May 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • phearis

      Wait... what? "slowly sandpapered away"? You do know there's no weather or atmosphere in space, right? Vesta has plenty of gravity, even enough to crush and form itself into a roughly spherical shape. It's not going anywhere.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Astronomer

      It has more than enough gravity to keep debris (with a low enough energy) in orbit around Vesta. After all, the satellite watching Vesta is in orbit around it. We've seen other meteoriods wtih smaller orbiting rocks.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  35. cpc65

    Promted, eh? You buttkisser asteriod, you!

    May 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  36. blessedgeek

    Pluto fans are offended.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Phil

      Agreed. Definately unfair to lay Pluto off, then hire this Vesta. REHIRE PLUTO!!

      May 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • MyTake

      Vesta works for cheap.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Elwood

      Pluto was full time, Vesta is a seaonal temp. Seems like an elegant solution to our Q1 head-count reduction metric.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  37. WIlly

    I'm glad kids these days are getting smarter. We only had to memorize 9 planets. These days you need a program to keep up with all the system players.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  38. Grumpster

    Let's latch onto the bugger and bring it in to crash into the moon. Then we'll have plenty of water to base ourselves there.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • phearis

      Uhhhhhh yeah ..... because purposely crashing a proto-planet into our moon isn't an insanely stupid idea. What could possibly go wrong? Oh wait .....

      May 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      How about we crash it into earth so all the rich elite can hide in underground bunkers for decades after the hit?

      The wealthy elite will like this idea because it will cut down welfare and other government services. No more taxes. However, with no more slaves, the elite will need to bear many slave children to work their factories for them so they can still make profits for themselves.

      I'm talking about underground golf courses here people!

      May 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      Ho w about we crash it into earth so all the rich elite can hide in underground bunkers for decades after the hit?

      Th e wealthy elite will like this idea because it will cut down welfare and other government services. No more taxes. However, with no more slaves, the elite will need to bear many slave children to work their factories for them so they can still make profits for themsel ves.

      I'm talking about underground golf courses here people!

      May 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
      • kzone

        How about we convince the wealthy elite the protoplanet is on its way. When they scramble to their luxury underground bunker we slap a giant padlock on it and throw away the key. Problem solved.

        May 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  39. palintwit

    As usual, astronomers at the Sarah Palin Galactic Observatory / Bait Shop are way ahead of the other researchers with their findings. They have concluded that this space rock is only 6,000 years old and that the baby jesus planted it their just to mess with everybody's heads.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • IAM IAM IAM IAM

      Jesus seems to be everywhere.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
      • jaconi

        you are

        May 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      No, it was the devil who planted fossils and s hit to make us confused and lose faith.

      It's really that simple, ask any christian.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
      • Michael500ca

        Ask any christian? LOL! Why not ask a scientist who would actually has a clue about what they are talking about instead of that christian make believe crap?

        May 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  40. KVM

    There should be fossils to have oil (hence the name fossil fuels). Having fossils means that life should have existed on this surface at some point of time (very unlikely).

    May 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  41. dandeman

    May the Schwartz be with you!

    May 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  42. nrt

    Vestivus,... For the Rest of Us!!

    May 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • nrt

      I'll get the pole out of the crawl space!

      May 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  43. rosie

    AW, it is so cute.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  44. driranek

    "...minus-150 degrees Fahrenheit..." Well scratch that baby off my bucket list....

    May 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  45. james

    Maybe they'll find Oil!!

    May 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

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