NASA experts have published the first information on the structure and properties of the matter of the asteroid Bennu, obtained at the time of landing of the OSIRIS-REx probe on the surface of a celestial body. These measurements indicated the low density of the asteroid rocks and the presence of minerals in them that interacted with water.
“Spectroscopic analysis of the OSIRIS-REx landing site in the Nightingale region shows that its matter contains organic matter, carbonates, magnetite, and compounds of water and various silicates. In total, we managed to collect over 250 g of asteroid matter, which will be delivered to Earth in 2023.the study says.
The American probe OSIRIS-REx was successfully launched into orbit in September 2016 as part of a mission to approach and collect samples from the surface of the asteroid Bennu (1999 RQ36), which in the recent past was considered one of the main space threats to the existence of life on Earth. The probe reached the celestial body in early December 2018.
In October 2020, the probe successfully landed on the surface of the doomsday asteroid at a point dubbed Nightingale. The NASA spacecraft collected samples of matter and studied in detail the structure and properties of Bennu from the closest possible distance using onboard spectroscopes, cameras and other scientific instruments.
A team of American and Japanese planetary scientists led by Dante Lauretta, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission science director, used this information to study the properties and structure of the asteroid in detail before OSIRIS-REx approaches Earth in September 2023 and drops a capsule with collected samples.
The analysis of the data by Lauretta and his colleagues revealed several interesting features of the asteroid. In particular, scientists have found that its matter is very loose – its density is only 500-700 kg per cubic meter, which is several times lower than that of terrestrial rocks.
In turn, the analysis of the spectrum of the collected rock samples of Bennu indicated that in its bowels there is organic matter and significant reserves of minerals that arose as a result of the interaction of the primary matter of the solar system with liquid water. According to the researchers, this makes the samples collected by OSIRIS-REx particularly interesting to study.
In addition, the scientists measured the exact mass of the collected samples. The robotic arm of the probe managed to capture more than 250 grams of matter, and a significant part of these reserves are samples of deep rocks that differ in color and structure from the near-surface layers. The subsequent study and comparison of the composition of these two types of rocks, as scientists hope, will help to understand how the structure of the primary matter of the solar system changes under the influence of the solar wind and cosmic rays.