Published: Сб, Марта 23, 2019
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Bennu discovery space scientist’s ‘BIGGEST surprise — NASA asteroid SHOCK

Bennu discovery space scientist’s ‘BIGGEST surprise — NASA asteroid SHOCK

Asteroid Bennu, the space rock now orbited by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, has offered up a couple surprise discoveries over past weeks, according to the space agency. Although numerous particles were ejected clear of asteroid, some particles orbited Bennu as satellites before returning to the asteroid's surface, according to NASA.

An artist's depiction of OSIRIS-REx collecting a sample of material from the surface of Bennu.

Bennu is full of surprises, NASA said in a recent statement.

"OSIRIS-REx data confirm previous ground-based observations pointing to aqueously altered, hydrated minerals on the surface of the asteroid", Hamilton added.

Lauretta exclaimed the "discovery of the plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career".

"Bennu has issued us a challenge to deal with its rugged terrain, and we are confident that OSIRIS-REx is up to the task", said Rich Burns, the project manager of OSIRIS-REx at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "That Bennu and Ryugu may be siblings yet exhibit some strikingly different traits implies there must be many exciting and mysterious astronomical processes we have yet to explore".

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After a safety assessment, the mission team concluded the particles did not pose a risk to the spacecraft. NASA finds this asteroid particularly important because scientists believe its chemical composition may be similar to that of asteroids which brought carbon and other building blocks of life to Earth. This means the planned Touch-and-Go (TAG) portion of the mission will need to be adjusted.

The researchers were expecting a smooth surface with few large boulders due to Earth-based observations.

NASA's first mission involving an asteroid sample return, OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016 to "get acquainted" with Bennu.

The team also says it has observed Bennu ejecting particles and rocks measuring up to several dozen centimeters in diameter from its surface.

Patrick Taylor, who studies asteroids at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but didn't participate in the spacecraft mission, noted in a telephone interview that the spacecraft was evidently manoeuvring more accurately and precisely than had been expected.

Some of these particles fall back to Bennu's surface, some fly away into space, and some enter orbit around Bennu, like a fleet of tiny satellites. Samples from the asteroid, which are expected back on earth by 2023, will help us answer some of the biggest questions about where we come from, according to an official press release.

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The probe was created to head for a flat area with a radius of 25 meters, but the images beamed back since December showed that there is no area that big which is free of boulders.

Asteroid Bennu as imaged by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft.

OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2 were two missions that were subject of briefings today and NASA held its own OSIRIS-REx media teleconference this afternoon.

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

The University of Arizona leads science operations for OSIRIS-REx, which was built by the Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space. The team of NASA space probe Osiris-Rex said Tuesday that the outside of the space rock, which estimates 490 meters in distance across, was canvassed in stones and rocks.

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