Scientists study the rugged surface of near-Earth asteroid Bennu — ScienceDaily

As the days count down to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s Contact-And-Go asteroid sample assortment endeavor, Southwest Research Institute scientists have assisted figure out what the spacecraft can hope to return from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu’s area. 3 papers published on-line by Science on Oct. 8 go over the colour, reflectivity, age, composition, origin and distribution of materials that make up the asteroid’s tough area.

On Oct twenty, the spacecraft will descend to the asteroid’s boulder-strewn area, contact the ground with its robotic arm for a handful of seconds and collect a sample of rocks and dust — marking the very first time NASA has grabbed items of an asteroid for return to Earth. SwRI scientists played a purpose in the selection of the sample web sites. The very first endeavor will be built at Nightingale, a rocky place sixty six feet in diameter in Bennu’s northern hemisphere. If this historic endeavor is unsuccessful, the spacecraft will check out again at a secondary web-site.

Given that the spacecraft arrived at Bennu in 2018, scientists have been characterizing the asteroid’s composition and comparing it to other asteroids and meteorites. The mission identified carbon-bearing compounds on Bennu’s area, a very first for a near-Earth asteroid, as well as minerals containing or shaped by water. Researchers also analyzed the distribution of these materials, globally and at the sample web sites

“Our new studies demonstrate that organics and minerals linked with the presence of water are scattered broadly around Bennu’s area, so any sample returned to Earth must consist of these compounds and minerals,” mentioned SwRI’s Dr. Vicky Hamilton, a coauthor on all 3 papers. “We will look at the sample’s relative abundances of organics, carbonates, silicates and other minerals to these in meteorites to assist figure out the scenarios that best make clear Bennu’s area composition.”

Asteroid Bennu is a darkish, rubble pile held jointly by gravity and believed to be the collisional remnant of a considerably much larger major-belt object. Its rubble-pile nature and intensely cratered area signifies that it has experienced a tough-and-tumble lifetime considering that getting liberated from its considerably much larger father or mother asteroid millions or even billions of years in the past.

“Boulders strewn about near the Nightingale web-site have brilliant carbonate veins,” Hamilton mentioned. “Bennu shares this compositional trait with aqueously altered meteorites. This correlation indicates that at minimum some carbonaceous asteroids were altered by percolating water in the early Photo voltaic Method.”

The boulders on Bennu have numerous textures and hues, which could present information about their variable publicity to micrometeorite bombardment and the photo voltaic wind over time. Finding out colour and reflectance information present information about the geologic background of planetary surfaces.

“Bennu’s numerous area features ample primitive substance probably from distinct depths in its father or mother overall body plus a little proportion of overseas materials from a further asteroid spouse and children littered about its area,” mentioned SwRI’s Dr. Kevin Walsh, a coauthor of 1 of the papers. “In addition, each the key and back-up sample web sites, Nightingale and Osprey, are located in little spectrally reddish craters that are believed to be a lot more pristine, possessing expert significantly less space weathering than most of Bennu’s bluish area.”

The OSIRIS-REx staff is also comparing Bennu to Ryugu, a further near-Earth asteroid. Both equally asteroids are believed to have originated from primitive asteroid people in the interior major belt. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency released Hayabusa2 in 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid Ryugu in 2018. Right after surveying the asteroid for a calendar year and a 50 percent, the spacecraft collected samples and is anticipated to return to Earth December six, 2020.

The sample returned by OSIRIS-REx, mixed with the area context maps OSIRIS-REx has collected, will enhance interpretations of obtainable ground and space telescope information for other primitive darkish asteroids. Evaluating returned Bennu samples with these of Ryugu will be instrumental for understanding the diversity in, and background of, asteroid people and the full asteroid belt.

Story Resource:

Supplies furnished by Southwest Research Institute. Observe: Content material could be edited for fashion and size.