Vesta, formally designated 4 Vesta, is one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System, with a mean diameter of about 525 kilometres (326 mi). It was discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on 29 March 1807, and is named after Vesta, the virgin goddess of home and hearth from Roman mythology.
Vesta is the second-most-massive asteroid after the dwarf planet Ceres, and comprises an estimated 9% of the mass of the asteroid belt. The less-massive Pallas is slightly larger, making Vesta third in size. Vesta is the last remaining rocky protoplanet (with a differentiated interior) of the kind that formed the terrestrial planets. It lost some 1% of its mass less than a billion years ago in a collision that left an enormous crater occupying much of its southern hemisphere. Debris from this event has fallen to Earth as howardite–eucrite–diogenite (HED) meteorites, a rich source of information about the asteroid.
Vesta is the brightest asteroid visible from Earth. Its maximum distance from the Sun is slightly farther than the minimum distance of Ceres from the Sun, though its orbit lies entirely within the Cererian orbit.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Vesta on 16 July 2011 for a one-year exploration, and what is known about Vesta will be refined and extended as data from Dawn is analyzed and published. Dawn left Vestan orbit on 5 September 2012.
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... In 2010, Vesta reached opposition in the constellation of Leo on the night of 17–18 February, at about magnitude 6.1, a brightness that makes it visible in binocular range but not for the naked eye ... Vesta came to opposition again on 5 August 2011, in the constellation of Capricornus at about magnitude 5.6 ... Vesta will be at opposition again on Sunday, 9 December 2012 ...