Spectral analysis of the small-sized Bennu asteroid reveals the presence of hydrated minerals
On December 3, the NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached the asteroid Bennu located 160 million kilometers from the Sun.
The spacecraft flies by the asteroid at a range of about 20 km while the on-board spectrometers analyse it.
The mission’s aim is to study in detail the celestial body — only 487 meters wide — in order to uncover some secrets of the solar system researchers are interested in.
The researchers were happy already with the initial data obtained that there are hydrated minerals on the asteroid. Amy Simon in charge of the spectral data collection explains that hydrated minerals are formed only as a result of interaction between minerals and ordinary water. This means that there was once liquid water on Bennu or a bigger asteroid it had broken off.
The discovery became a success and a surprise for the researchers.
Which brings us to something big… We found water on Bennu! ☄️💦 Two of my spectrometers – OVIRS and OTES – detected the chemical fingerprints of water bound up in hydrated clay minerals over a large part of the asteroid’s surface. #WelcomeToBennu #AGU18 https://t.co/PJC8agBLEE pic.twitter.com/F74s8dGIIl
— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) December 10, 2018
A large number of boulders — up to 15 meters — are the asteroid’s another specific feature. The scientists assume that the boulders could have been surrounded by water, which actually formed the landscape.
The NASA researchers are currently studying Bennu’s craters in order to select a suitable site for sampling in 2020.