July 19, 2024

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It turns out that the surface of the asteroid Bennu is a ball crater

It turns out that the surface of the asteroid Bennu is a ball crater

New research shows that the rocks that make up the surface of asteroid Bennu barely stick together.

The asteroid Bennu continues to stun. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft previously found Water on a small space rockFurthermore it Older than thought And the Spin faster and faster† Furthermore, Bennu’s surface is not as smooth as sandy plain as previously predicted by scientists, but rather rough and strewn with stones.

Moreover, now it seems that the stones do not “stick together”, but form a kind of ball pit. And this is where OSIRIS-REx sank so long when the probe was in October 2020 Descend to the asteroid to pick up items

loose set of rocks

Immediately after landing, it was clear that something strange was happening on Bennu’s surface. OSIRIS-REx was found to leave an 8-meter crater, while the probe barely dented the surface in lab tests. This is why NASA left the spacecraft Fly over the asteroid againat an altitude of only a few kilometers, to take additional photos.

With before-and-after photos of where OSIRIS-REx hit its crater, acceleration data from the probe itself, and hundreds of computer simulations, it’s now clear what’s going on. The top of the OSIRIS-REx bottom does not constitute a whole, but rather a loose collection of rocks held together by Bennu’s gravity only. And that gravity is less than a hundred thousand of the Earth’s gravity.

Small pits in Benue

So you will feel like you are stepping into a ball pit if you stand on Benno, NASA reports† And so it was for OSIRIS-REx. It sank half a meter into the asteroid during its brief visit to the asteroid, until its thruster pulled again.

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Those thrusters seem to have left their mark on Benno. Around the “main hole” of the OSIRIS-REx itself are four small holes. Around it is a ring of material delivered by the probe.

More surprises

In the meantime, OSIRIS-REx has been on its way to Earth for a few months already, with 250 grams of Bennu on board. If all goes well, it will be delivered here in September 2023. Then scientists can see if the asteroid has more surprises waiting for us.