Published: Fri, March 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Evidence of water, particle plumes discovered on asteroid Bennu

Evidence of water, particle plumes discovered on asteroid Bennu

The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Bennu on December 31, 2018.

Due to the unexpectedly rough terrain, NASA said the mission team has been unable to find a site that large on Bennu and is now identifying possible locations much smaller in radius.

Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division said: "The first three months of OSIRIS-REx's up-close investigation of Bennu have reminded us what discovery is all about - surprises, quick thinking, and flexibility".

Scientists say the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft has observed particle plumes erupting from Bennu's surface in an unexpected find.

Lauretta mentioned the plume discovery at Bennu was one of many greatest surprises of his scientific profession. "Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started", Lauretta added.

The mission science team detected particle plumes ejecting off of the surface on January 6, followed by additional plumes over the last two months. Although numerous particles were ejected clear of asteroid, some particles orbited Bennu as satellites before returning to the asteroid's surface, according to NASA.

Experts had expected Bennu's surface to be relatively smooth and even, but instead it is described as rough and densely covered in boulders.

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Scientists working on Japan's Hayabusa 2 space mission said that by using a wide range of cameras and instruments to collect images and data about the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, they had made some "tantalizing discoveries".

The larger number of boulders and the smaller sample site is also expected to require much more precise maneuvering by the spacecraft during its descent to the surface. However, most scientists think additional water was delivered in part by comets and pieces of asteroids, including water-bearing carbonaceous meteorites, Hamilton said. Sandy regions are flawless for grabbing a small collection of particles, especially with the sampler attached to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

A few of the particles thrown off Bennu falls again to the asteroid's floor.

The mission was meant to set out toward a level zone with a sweep of 25 meters, yet the pictures channeled back since December demonstrated that there is no region that huge which is free of rocks. The mission team is developing an updated approach, called Bullseye TAG, to accurately target smaller sample sites. At that time, OSIRIS-REx will descend to just above the surface, and send out a puff of nitrogen gas to stir up dust grains from Bennu's surface. Now that OSIRIS-REx has revealed Bennu's surface up close, those expectations of a smoother surface have been proven wrong.

The data can also be used to determine Bennu's gravitational pull. A ridge round Bennu's equator is likely one of the asteroid's most outstanding options, together with quite a few boulders, a few of that are as large as a multi-story workplace constructing.

It appears to have broken off from a parent body, according to observations from a Japanese probe that landed on the space rock. But the team is particularly eager to sample a site high in magnetite, as it could paint a picture of how much water and organic material was present in Bennu's past. OSIRIS-REx is a New Frontiers Program mission, administered by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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