NASA Mission Discovers Water On Asteroid Bennu

Posted: Dec 16 2018, 2:08pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 16 2018, 2:19pm CST, in Latest Science News


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NASA Mission Discovers Water on Asteroid Bennu
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first mission to visit a nearby asteroid.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has found evidence of water on the surface of a primitive asteroid called Bennu. Data obtained from the spacecraft's two spectrometers reveal molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together. This means that at some point, Bennu's surface material interacted with water. However, the asteroid itself is not large enough to sustain liquid water or ice. Its parent body possibly had water on its surface.

This finding isn't just interesting information, it can help scientists get closer to understanding how planets formed and how life began.

“This finding may provide an important link between what we think happened in space with asteroids like Bennu and what we see in the meteorites that scientists study in the lab," said Ellen Howell, senior research scientist at University of Arizona. "It is very exciting to see these hydrated minerals distributed across Bennu's surface, because it suggests they are an intrinsic part of Bennu's composition, not just sprinkled on its surface by an impactor."

OSIRIS-REx mission arrived at asteroid Bennu early December after traveling two years through space. OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first mission towards a near-Earth asteroid. The mission will thoroughly survey asteroid Bennu before collecting a sample and returning it to Earth in 2023.

Asteroid Bennu is estimated to be just over 1,600 feet wide and is characterized by its dark, carbon-rich surface. The asteroid was discovered in 1999 and its origin dates back to the early days of the solar system. It also makes close approach to Earth about once every six years.

Since Bennu is one of the oldest known asteroids, it could hold clues about the beginning of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

Researcher Amy Simon from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center says. "The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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