NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft identified quite an unusual thing after it arrived at asteroid Bennu. Its discovery unveiled that the asteroid might be active, or consistently releasing particles into space. The continuous analysis of Bennu could transmit information on why this interesting phenomenon is happening. A sample was also taken to be brought back to Earth for further examination.
OSIRIS RE-x team identified at first a scrap dismissal event in photos shot by the spacecraft’s navigation cameras recorded in January 2019. The particles, however, seemed to be at first glance, stars behind the asteroid, but another analysis proved that Bennu was discharging matter from its surface. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS -REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, explained the importance of such an event. He stated, “Among Bennu’s many surprises, the particle ejections sparked our curiosity, and we’ve spent the last several months investigating this mystery. This is a great opportunity to expand our knowledge of how asteroids behave.”
NASA’s Osiris-REx explained the odd particle occurrences on Asteroid Bennu
After the examination of the findings, researchers published their observations in a Science paper. They noticed the three biggest particle discharging events on January 6 and 19, and February 11, and decided that the occurrences arose from various areas on Bennu’s surface. So, the first event happened in the southern part, and the second and third events close the equator. Also, all three occurrences happened in the late afternoon on Asteroid Bennu.
Moreover, the discharged particles fell back to Bennu’s surface or escaped from it into space. The analyzed particles passed up to 10 feet/second and measured from smaller than an inch up to 4 inches in size. Bennu’s activity grants more significant results once a sample is gathered and brought back to Earth for study. Even if most of the particles are small enough to be taken by the spacecraft’s sampling system, it could still show intriguing results.