Nasa probe to reveal secrets of doomsday asteroid Bennu that could crash into Earth
ANCIENT asteroid Bennu contains the ingredients for life, according to Nasa experts.
The US space agency’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is getting ready to sample the space rock’s surface on October 20.
Bennu is known as a ‘doomsday’ asteroid because it has a small chance of colliding with Earth[/caption]
Ahead of the sampling, experts have been piecing together what they think they know so far about the near Earth asteroid.
Nasa explained: “NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission now knows much more about the material it’ll be collecting in just a few weeks.
“In a special collection of six papers published today in the journals Science and Science Advances, scientists on the OSIRIS-REx mission present new findings on asteroid Bennu’s surface material, geological characteristics, and dynamic history.
“They also suspect that the delivered sample of Bennu may be unlike anything we have in the meteorite collection on Earth.”
Nasa wants to sample a piece of the asteroid in a few weeks[/caption]
The researchers relied on high resolution mapping that has been done around Bennu since a spacecraft began to orbit it back in 2018.
It’s hope that their work will fill in crucial gaps in our understanding of asteroids.
Nasa claims Bennu hosts ingredients that we know are essential for life on Earth.
It said: “One of the papers, led by Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that carbon-bearing, organic material is widespread on the asteroid’s surface, including at the mission’s primary sample site, Nightingale, where OSIRIS-REx will make its first sample collection attempt on October 20.
“These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material will likely be present in the collected sample.
“This organic matter may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology.
“Scientists are planning detailed experiments on these organic molecules and expect that the returned sample will help answer complex questions about the origins of water and life on Earth.”
The asteroid has a rocky terrain as can be seen here in this coloured image[/caption]
There is a theory that life on Earth started because of an asteroid impact bringing water and the right organic molecules.
There’s also slight concern that an asteroid like Bennu could end lives on Earth.
Bennu is a possible security risk for our planet as there’s a 1 in 2,700 chance it could collide with us in the 2100s.
This may be a slim chance but it makes studying the asteroid even more important.
Bright ‘veins’ on the asteroid’s boulders are also being used to suggest Bennu formed when a larger watery asteroid was smashed into and broken up.
The water could have created the veins and left behind the patterns we can still see today.
In less than two weeks Nasa’s probe will be taking a sample of 60 grams of loose rock from Bennu.
This will then be flown back to Earth and is expected to arrive in 2023.
Then we should be able to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the asteroid and its origins.
Bennu – the key facts
Here’s what you need to know
- 101955 Bennu is a large asteroid that was first discovered on September 11, 1999
- It’s official designated as a “potentially hazardous object”, because it could one day hit Earth
- Space scientists say it has a 1-in-2,700 change of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199
- It’s named after the Bennu, an Ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun
- The asteroid has an approximate diameter of 1,614 feet
- Bennu is the target of the ongoing Osiris-Rex mission, which is designed to return samples from the asteroid to Earth in 2023
- The Osiris-Rex spacecraft arrived at Bennu on December 3, 2018 – following a two-year journey
- It will map out Bennu’s surface and orbit the asteroid to calculate its mass
- An asteroid of Bennu’s size can be expected to hit Earth approximately once every 100,000 to 130,000 years
- Bennu will make a close approach (460,000 miles) to Earth on September 23, 2060
Most read in Science
In other space news, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster has just passed Mars after he blasted it into space back in 2018.
The US Space Force will one day send humans into space and could set up its own Moon base staffed by robots, a US General has confirmed.
And, Musk wants to send humans to Mars as early as 2024 aboard one of the huge rockets.
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