Astronomers have discovered a new kind of asteroid — a strange mini-world with a unique and violent history that could reveal more clues about the early solar system.
The asteroid, called 1999 AT10, is a miniature space rock born when a collision blasted it out of its rocky parent Vesta, which is the second-largest asteroid in the solar system. The mineralogical composition of 1999 AT10 suggests that unlike many other asteroids, it did not originate from the outer rocky crust of its parent asteroid Vesta, but from the deeper layers underneath. Until now, no asteroid like it has ever been seen.
Vesta is of particular interest because this summer it will be the first destination of NASA's Dawn spacecraft.