Composition of the Rheasilvia basin, a window into Vesta's interior


Corresponding author: H. Y. McSween, Planetary Geoscience Institute and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1410, USA. (


[1] The estimated excavation depth of the huge Rheasilvia impact basin is nearly twice the likely thickness of the Vestan basaltic crust, so the mantle should be exposed. Spectral mapping by the Dawn spacecraft reveals orthopyroxene-rich materials, similar to diogenite meteorites, in the deepest parts of the basin and within its walls. Significant amounts of olivine are predicted for the mantles of bulk-chondritic bodies like Vesta, and its occurrence is demonstrated by some diogenites that are harzburgite and dunite. However, olivine has so far escaped detection by Dawn's instruments. Spectral detection of olivine in the presence of orthopyroxene is difficult in samples with <25% olivine, and olivine in Rheasilvia might have been diluted during impact mixing or covered by the collapse of basin walls. The distribution of diogenite inferred from its exposures in and around Rheasilvia provides a geologic context for the formation of these meteorites, but does not clearly distinguish between a magmatic cumulate versus partial melting restite origin for diogenites. The former is favored by geochemical arguments, and crystallization in either a magma ocean or multiple plutons emplaced near the crust-mantle boundary is permitted by Dawn observations.