Agency Reveals Details About Bennu, Including Finding Possible Lifeforms

KEY POINTS

  • OSIRIS-REx will collect samples from Bennu on Oct. 20
  • Bennu came from a parent body which had enough heat to keep water in its soils
  • Nightingale will be the mission’s primary sample site
  • The samples are set to be delivered back on Earth on Sept. 24, 2023

NASA has shared more information about asteroid Bennu and the agency’s mission to bring back samples of the asteroid’s surface through their OSIRIS-REx mission on Oct. 20. The 861-foot asteroid may contain ingredients for life.

In a recent article shared by NASA, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is set to travel to a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to collect a 2.1-ounce sample and bring it back to Earth for further study. The mission plans to shed more light for scientists on how life began in the solar system, as well as improve their knowledge on asteroids that

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Asteroid Bennu Could Shed Light on How Ingredients for Life Reached Earth | Smart News

A series of studies published last week in the journals Science and Science Advances offer a new, detailed look at the makeup of a small asteroid called Bennu. The studies come just before NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft plans to pick up a sample from the asteroid’s surface on October 20 and return with it to Earth in 2023.

Before the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached the asteroid in 2018, astronomers could only study it with telescopes that couldn’t make out details smaller than cities or states, Michael Greshko reports for National Geographic. OSIRIS-REx allows astronomers to map details the size of basketball courts, sheets of paper and postage stamps, depending on the imaging tool they used.

“The reason there’s so much interest in asteroids is a lot of them are very primitive, from when the Solar System formed, and they didn’t change with wind and water, or weather like on Earth,” planetary

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Scientists study the rugged surface of near-Earth asteroid Bennu — ScienceDaily

As the days count down to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s Touch-And-Go asteroid sample collection attempt, Southwest Research Institute scientists have helped determine what the spacecraft can expect to return from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu’s surface. Three papers published online by Science on Oct. 8 discuss the color, reflectivity, age, composition, origin and distribution of materials that make up the asteroid’s rough surface.

On October 20, the spacecraft will descend to the asteroid’s boulder-strewn surface, touch the ground with its robotic arm for a few seconds and collect a sample of rocks and dust — marking the first time NASA has grabbed pieces of an asteroid for return to Earth. SwRI scientists played a role in the selection of the sample sites. The first attempt will be made at Nightingale, a rocky area 66 feet in diameter in Bennu’s northern hemisphere. If this historic attempt is unsuccessful, the spacecraft will try again

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Asteroid Bennu may have been home to ancient water flows

Perhaps as a prelude to this attempt, researchers just published a number of new studies about the geochemistry of Bennu today in the journals Science and Science Advances, providing some of the biggest revelations to date. Here are the most compelling.

Bennu’s watery history

In the first Science study, scientists used high-resolution images taken by OSIRIS-Rex, as well as spectroscopy (which involves analyzing electromagnetic waves emitted from Bennu to determine its chemistry), to better understand the composition and history of the asteroid’s Nightingale crater region, where the sample will be collected.

They found that boulders in this area showed bright veins, narrow in width but about a meter in length, similar to what’s found in other carbonaceous chondritic meteorites that have landed on Earth. In those cases, the veins indicate that the rock had once interacted with flowing water. 

So naturally, for Bennu, “the veins suggest that water flowed through

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