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NASA leads the asteroid bennu in term of snatch and grab - finds six new secrets, including a possible void below the surface

NASA leads the asteroid bennu in term of snatch and grab - finds six new secrets, including a possible void below the surface

Artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx returning to Earth after collecting sample from Asteroid Bennu

Key points:

On 20th of October, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has revealed six new facts about the asteroid Bennu ahead of its snatch and grab.

Uneven gravity around the asteroid suggests that there may be a mass void below the surface.

Scientists have also searched two types of boulders on the asteroid Bennu - neither strong enough to survive the journey through Earth's atmosphere.


Landing on an unknown area can be scary. Nevertheless, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Asteroid Investigation - OSIRIS-REx - knows at least six things about the asteroid Bennu as it gets closer to its snatch and grab.

Officially known as the Touch-and-Go (TAG) maneuver, the spacecraft will land on the asteroid for a few seconds and it will take a sample of rocks and dust before returning to Earth. Right now, OSIRIS-REx is less than two weeks from its first attempt on 20 October.

Ahead of the mission, NASA has already begun to unravel some of the asteroid Bennu's secrets. In a special collection of six papers published today in Science and Science Advances, the scientists shared six things they already know they would find on the rocky surface.

Here is a complete list of six things that NASA has mentioned about the asteroid Bennu:

1. Carbon-bearing, organic matter is widespread on the surface of the asteroid

Artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx mission collecting sample from Asteroid Bennu

what does this mean?

This indicates that whatever sample will be collected by NASA's investigation will include hydrated and organic materials present at the landing site - the nightingale.

2. Carbonate minerals form geological features of some asteroids.

Artist’s concept shows Scientists think Bennu breaking away from its larger parent body

what does this mean?

Almost of the asteroid beanu's boulders have luminous veins made of carbonate. More importantly, some of them appear close to the nightingale crater. This means that some carbonates may be present in the returned sample.

The discovery has led scientists to prove that the original asteroid, destroyed long ago, is likely a widespread hydrothermal system, where water interacted and reefed.

3. Onosiris-Rex's landing site - the nightingale - the regolith has only recently been exposed to the harsh environment of space

Artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from Asteroid Bennu

what does this mean?

According to NASA, the Nightingale forms a part of the population of young, spectral red craters, and the specimens collected by the investigation will include some of the most 'ancient' material on the asteroid.

The asteroid bennu is covered in many colors along the visible-wavelength spectrum - much more varied than initially anticipated. This shows how combinations of different materials were derived from the original body of Bennu and how certain locations were exposed to different periods at different ages.

4. There are two main types of boulders on the surface of the asteroid beanu - usually bright and smooth with bold and rough and more rare.

Bennu and other asteroids represent building blocks of our solar system’s rocky planets

what does this mean?

Different types of rocks may have formed the original asteroid of Bennu at different depths.

5. Asteroid Bennu's dark boulders are weaker and more porous, while less porous-weaker then expected and smooth boulder are stronger.

MapCam View of Bennu's north pole from orbit

What does this mean?

Since two of the boulders are weaker than expected, neither will survive the journey through Earth's atmosphere.

NASA said in a statement "It is therefore possible that returned samples of the asteroid bennu will provide a missing link for scientists, as this type of material is currently not represented in meteorites" .

Super-resolution' view of asteroid Bennu created using eight images obtained by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on 19 October 2018 from a distance of about 330 km

6. Gravitational field analysis of the asteroid bennu does not show its internal symmetry

What does this mean?

This means that there may be a hole in the center of the asteroid. The data suggests that there are pockets of high and low density material inside the asteroid. Hypotheses are likely to be at least as large as a pair of zero football fields.

In addition, the bulge at the equator of Bennu is under-dense, suggesting that Bennu's rotation is losing this material.

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