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OSIRIS-REx spacecraft detects water-bearing minerals on Bennu

11 Dec 2018, 17:56 UTC
OSIRIS-REx spacecraft detects water-bearing minerals on Bennu
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A mosaic of asteroid Bennu made up of 12 images from the PolyCam instrument aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The images were shot at a distance of about 24 kilometres (15 miles). Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Within days of arriving at an asteroid known as Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s two spectrometers were detecting hydrated minerals across the surface of the pebble- and boulder-strewn body, indicating the action of water at some point in the remote past.
During a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC, Amy Simon, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said “to get hydrated minerals in the first place, to get clays, you have to have water interacting with regular minerals.”
“Once you’ve made the clays, they can actually bond and store some of that water in there, make it water bearing, so these hydrated minerals have evidence of liquid water in Bennu’s past,” she said. “So this is really big news.”
Discovered in 1999, Bennu is a 1,600-foot-wide carbonaceous asteroid in an orbit that carries it nearly to the distance of Mars and just inside the orbit of Earth. Its surface is littered with small pebbles, rocks and large boulders ...

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