Detection of Widespread Hydrated Materials on Vesta by the VIR Imaging Spectrometer on board the Dawn Mission
Water plays a key role in the evolution of terrestrial planets, and notably in the occurrence of Earth's oceans. However, the mechanism by which water has been incorporated into these bodies—including Earth—is still extensively debated. Here we report the detection of widespread 2.8 μm OH absorption bands on the surface of the asteroid Vesta by the VIR imaging spectrometer on board Dawn. These observations are surprising as Vesta is fully differentiated with a basaltic surface. The 2.8 μm OH absorption is distributed across Vesta's surface and shows areas enriched and depleted in hydrated materials. The uneven distribution of hydrated mineral phases is unexpected and indicates ancient processes that differ from those believed to be responsible for OH on other airless bodies, like the Moon. The origin of Vestan OH provides new insight into the delivery of hydrous materials in the main belt and may offer new scenarios on the delivery of hydrous minerals in the inner solar system, suggesting processes that may have played a role in the formation of terrestrial planets.