Surface of the asteroid Bennu looks like a playground with plastic chips

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has shown that the surface of the asteroid Bennu looks like a plastic ball pit.

The OSIRIS-ReX mission, returning to Earth after successfully collecting rock and soil samples, has revealed a unique composition.

In a series of papers published in the journal Science and Science Advances, the researchers added to the intrigue that kept scientists on their toes throughout the OSIRIS-REx mission, as Bennu proved to be invariably unpredictable.

“We found a lot of empty space on the surface,” said OSIRIS-REx science team member Kevin Walsh.

The development was based on close-up images of the surface of the asteroid, which were obtained by the spacecraft.

“What we saw was a huge wall of debris emanating from the sampling site,” said OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Loretta, adding that their expectations of the asteroid’s surface were completely wrong.

Scientists were baffled by the abundance of scattered pebbles given how carefully the spacecraft touched the surface. Even stranger was that the spacecraft left a large 26 foot crater.

Surface of the asteroid Bennu looks like a playground with plastic chips 2

The team then analyzed the volume of debris at the Nightingale site, from where the sample was taken. They also studied acceleration data collected during the spacecraft’s landing.

These data showed that when OSIRIS-REx touched down on the asteroid, it experienced the same drag that a human would feel when squeezing the plunger of a French press coffee decanter.

The team ran computer simulations to determine Bennu’s density based on spacecraft images and acceleration information.

The engineers varied the surface adhesion properties in each simulation until they found the one that most closely matched their real data.

The scientists hope that the new information will help to better interpret remote observations of other asteroids, which could be useful in the design of future missions.

The team suggests that asteroids like Benn, which are barely held together by gravity or electrostatic force, could break apart in Earth’s atmosphere without posing a danger to it.


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