NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe only arrived at the asteroid Bennu a week ago, and it's already made a startling discovery. After analyzing data gathered by the craft, the team found that Bennu is rich in water molecules, locked away in clay minerals.
After a two-year journey from Earth, OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer), came within 19 km (12 mi) of Bennu on December 3. The science team kicked off studies of the asteroid by pointing three of the craft's instruments towards Bennu, including the camera suite, a visible and infrared spectrometer (OVIRS) and thermal emission spectrometer (OTES). Analysis of data from the two spectrometers showed that the space rock was rich in hydroxyls, molecules made up of bonded oxygen and hydrogen atoms. These appear to be locked away in water-bearing clay minerals across and throughout Bennu. It's not exactly liquid water – the asteroid is too small for that to happen – but it does indicate that liquid water was present in the past, perhaps on the much larger parent asteroid that Bennu broke off from. "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," says Amy Simon, OVIRS deputy instrument scientist. 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.
Source : newatlas.com
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