Asteroid Bennu’s surface found to be like a plastic ball pit

This new revelation was not at all what the scientists expected.

“Our expectations about the asteroid’s surface were completely wrong” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, based at University of Arizona, Tucson, and Walsh.

The researchers reached this conclusion after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft picked up a sample and beamed close-up images of the asteroid’s surface to Earth. “What we saw was a huge wall of debris radiating out from the sample site,” Lauretta said. “We were like, ‘Holy cow!’”

Hints that the asteroid’s surface may not be what it seemed were given by the abundance of pebbles strewn about when the spacecraft landed although it just gently tapped the surface. It also left an unusually large crater that was 26 feet (8 meters) wide.

“Every time we tested the sample pickup procedure in the lab, we barely made a divot,” Lauretta said. That’s when the researchers decided to send the spacecraft back to take more images “to see how big of a mess we made,” Lauretta said.

NASA’s spacecraft first arrived at Bennu in December of 2018 and discovered a surface littered with boulders instead of the smooth, sandy beach they had expected based on observations from Earth- and space-based telescopes. The ancient asteroid sits over 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) away from Earth.

Leave a Comment