One of the more interesting things NASA did in recent memory was the landing of a probe onto the surface of the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx has briefly successfully touched the asteroid surface and devoured a series of samples that will be sent back to Earth for study. After orbiting the asteroid for a few years, some new data are now published that shed more light on the asteroid’s composition.
Researchers from the University of Colorado have published findings based on data obtained by the spacecraft over the two years it was in orbit that suggest the asteroid is likely empty. Daniel Scheeres, the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology, said it seems that the void in the asteroid center could contain several soccer fields.
Since the asteroid̵7;s core appears weaker than the outside, its existence for a long time could be at risk. Scheeres says that in a million years or less, entire asteroids can fly away. By combining data recorded by OSIRIS-REx, the scientists were able to create a map of the asteroid’s gravity, showing that the underlying hypothesis is that the snake and the rock are false.
The team believes that the rotation of the asteroid may be the cause of the internal void. From time to time, Bennu’s rotation was accelerating and they thought it was in the process of spinning itself into pieces. Because of the low density of the core, an entire asteroid will easily break apart as it spins. Now that the measurements of the asteroid’s gravity field are over, the team of scientists have finished their work on the OSIRIS-REx mission.
The results of their work contributed to the plan to analyze the samples that will be returned to earth by spacecraft. The current plan will see samples to be analyzed to determine the cohesion between particles, a major physical property influencing the mass distribution observed in the study.