- Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt, is a protoplanet, not an asteroid.
- Vesta formed within 300 million years of the beginning of the solar system's existence.
- Pieces of Vesta have been found on Earth in the form of a particular type of meteorite.
Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt, has an iron core, a varied surface, layers of rock and possibly a magnetic field - all signs of a planet in the making, not an asteroid.
So concludes an international team of scientists treated to a virtual front row seat at Vesta for the past 10 months, courtesy of NASA's Dawn robotic probe.
PHOTOS: Giant Asteroid Vesta's Mysteries Revealed
They have a bit more ground to cover before Dawn leaves Vesta's cratered, lava-like surface in late August to rendezvous with the king of the asteroid belt, Ceres, another type of protoplanet believed to be flush with water ice.
Already however, the Dawn science team has confirmed long-held theories about Vesta's history, a timeline that dates back to within 300 million years of the beginning of the solar system's existence.