Surprise! NASA says asteroid Bennu is like a children's 'ball pit'
Asteroid Bennu has proved consistently unpredictable! However, let's start from the beginning. NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft had visited and collected a sample from asteroid Bennu back in October 2020 and surprisingly, scientists have found something interesting about the asteroid. After analyzing data gathered from the samples of Asteroid Bennu, scientists discovered that the spacecraft would have sunk into Bennu if it had not fired its thrusters to back away instantly after it grabbing dust and rock from the asteroid's surface.
The study revealed that the building particles or the surface particles of Bennu are very loosely packed and lightly bound to each other. NASA even compared it to a pit of plastic balls! "..if a person were to step onto Bennu they would feel very little resistance as if stepping into a pit of plastic balls that are popular play areas for kids," NASA said in a statement.
Additionally, scientists also looked at acceleration data collected during the landing of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on the surface of the asteroid. It revealed the same amount of resistance as a person would feel on a pile of plastic balls.
First time ever, when NASA's spacecraft arrived at Bennu, the asteroid left everyone surprised with its surface which was found littered with boulders instead of what they had expected. Based on the observations from the Earth and space-based telescopes, its surface was expected to be smooth and filled with sandy beaches. Another surprising fact about asteroid Bennu was revealed when scientists discovered that the asteroid was throwing particles of rock into space!
And now this latest observation about the surface of the Bennu adds to the intrigue that has kept scientists on the edge of their seats throughout the OSIRIS-REx mission. Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx said in a statement, "Our expectations about the asteroid's surface were completely wrong. What we saw was a huge wall of debris radiating out from the sample site."
The team of researchers has analyzed the volume of debris visible in before and after images of the sample site of the Asteroid Bennu, famously nicknamed as “Nightingale.”