Soon after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science group revealed that the asteroid might very well be active, or persistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu—and its pattern that may finally be returned to Earth—might potentially make clear why this intriguing phenomenon is happening.
The OSIRIS-REx crew first noticed a particle ejection occasion in pictures captured by the spacecraft’s navigation cameras taken on Jan. 6, only a week after the spacecraft entered its first orbit around Bennu. At first look, the particles gave the impression to star behind the asteroid, however on closer examination, the group realized that the asteroid was ejecting materials from its surface. After concluding that these particles didn’t compromise the spacecraft’s safety, the mission started devoted observations with the intention to totally doc the exercise.
After finding out the outcomes of the observations, the mission group launched their findings in a Science paper published Dec. 6. The crew discovered that, after ejection from the asteroid’s floor, the particles both briefly orbited Bennu and fell again to its surface or escaped from Bennu into space. The noticed particles traveled as much as 10 ft (3 meters) per second and measured from smaller than an inch as much as 4 inches (10 cm) in dimension. Roughly 200 particles have been noticed through the largest occasion, which passed off on Jan. 6.
The material returned to Earth from Bennu, nonetheless, will certainly improve the understanding of asteroids and the methods they’re each different and related, even because the particle ejection phenomenon continues to be a mystery whose clues we’ll additionally return home with within the type of information and further materials for study.