NASA began off the year sturdy with large information from its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe. In early January, NASA celebrated the profitable insertion of the probe in orbit around the space rock known as Bennu. The 12 months since that milestone has been crammed with fascinating observations and a complete lot of pretty images, however probably the most puzzling options of Bennu may finally have an explanation.
It wasn’t long after OSIRIS-REx started returning observations of Bennu that researchers noticed one thing weird. The asteroid appeared to be flinging items of itself round, with particles launching from the asteroid’s surface and ultimately settling again down on new areas of the rock.
Earlier than NASA’s spacecraft may research the phenomenon, and the science crew had to make sure that the particles weren’t a hazard to the probe itself. There could be nothing worse than flying all the best way to an asteroid solely to have it chuck rocks on the excessive-tech hardware and destroy it. After the preliminary investigation, the group decided the particles wouldn’t hurt OSIRIS-REx, and the researchers set about figuring out why the asteroid was juggling chunks of itself because it cruises by space.
The crew got here up with quite a lot of potential explanations, together with impacts from smaller area rocks slamming into the asteroid. One other doable clarification is that the floor of Bennu could also be extra energetic than initially thought, with common heating from the Solar inflicting fractures that ship items of the asteroid flying.
NASA’s spacecraft is on purpose to retrieve asteroid samples after which return to Earth. It wasn’t despatched to Bennu to analyze this unusual phenomenon and doesn’t have devices constructed for this goal. That makes it tough for scientists to pin down a definitive trigger; however, the analysis is nonetheless attention-grabbing.