Fresh Photos of Vesta Asteroid and Mercury Offer New Mysteries for Scientists

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March 22 2012 3:23 PM

Fresh Photos of Vesta Asteroid and Mercury Offer New Mysteries

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(In this handout from NASA, the giant asteroid Vesta is seen in an image taken from the NASA Dawn spacecraft about 3,200 miles above the surface July 24, 2011 in Space.)

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltec via Getty Images

Space has getting its close-up this week, with fresh photos of a giant asteroid and planet Mercury raising new mysteries for scientists.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured stunning new images of the asteroid Vesta, one of the largest objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The new photos reveal unusually bright spots that may show original material beneath the surface, exposed by collisions as well as darker markings with origins that scientists are yet to understand.

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And recent high-res images by NASA's Messenger spacecraft has revealed that our tiniest planet, Mercury, may have a huge iron core wrapped in a solid shell of iron and sulfur. Not only that, polar imagery of the planet has revealed what seems like an impossibility on its 400 degree Celsius surface: water in the form of ice hiding in sun-protected craters.

Water on Mercury and bright spots on giant asteroids? Sounds like it’s already time for NASA to demand an update to the new Angry Birds space game!

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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