Thursday, December 13, 2018

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Discovers Water on Asteroid

   Newly analyzed data from NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) has revealed the presence of water locked within the clays of the asteroid Bennu.
   Since the beginning of the mission's approach phase in mid-August, the science team has been using three instruments on the spacecraft to begin making preliminary scientific observations of the asteroid from afar.
   Data obtained from the spacecraft's two spectrometers revealed the presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together, known as 'hydroxyls'. It is currently hypothesized that these hydroxyl groups exist throughout the asteroid in water-bearing clay minerals. This indicates that that at some point in its history, Benu's rocky material interacted with water.
  “The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said Amy Simon, OVIRS deputy instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.”
Image of asteroid Bennu photographed on Dec 2 via NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

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