NASA spacecraft spots particle plumes erupting from the surface of asteroid Bennu

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NASA is planning to land a probe called the OSIRIS-REx on the asteroid Bennu, which was more than 120 million kilometers from Earth as of December. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. Studying asteroids like Bennu to learn about the origin of the solar system.

A mission to sample an asteroid that could tell scientists more about the origin of the solar system has gotten more complicated.

Scientists say the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft has observed particle plumes erupting from Bennu's surface in an unexpected find. "Bennu has issued us a challenge to deal with its rugged terrain, and we are confident that OSIRIS-REx is up to the task".

In what Lauretta called perhaps "one of the biggest surprises of my career", there was the spectacle that greeted OSIRIS-REx after only six days in orbit. But the rugged terrain means it will instead have to aim for a much smaller safe area, like the smooth patch at top left.

"Bennu is already surprising us", Lauretta said.

The mission team spotted the particle plumes first in images taken from the spacecraft 1.61 kilometres away on 6 January.

Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer mission on the College of Arizona, stated the invention of stone and pebble particle streams makes Bennu an "energetic asteroid", a different class of small photovoltaic system objects with inhabitants of exclusively a few dozen, of which none have been studied up-shut. "A few of these gradual-transferring particles have been noticed over intervals of a minimum of every week, and they look like trapped within the asteroid's gravity discipline and are ending up in orbit round Bennu", he stated. Following a safety assessment, the mission team concluded the particles did not pose a risk to the spacecraft. NASA said the mission's science team is continuing to study the particle plumes and their possible causes.

NASA's plan to scoop up dirt from asteroid hits a snag
Spacecraft makes 'unexpected' discoveries about asteroid Bennu

Bennu isn't the only asteroid that's been caught blasting material out into space, but it joins a very exclusive club.

The scientists were also surprised by Bennu's terrain, which is covered with large boulders.

"The first three months of OSIRIS-REx's up-close investigation of Bennu have reminded us what discovery is all about - surprises, quick thinking and flexibility", said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division. Thanks to all that OSIRIS-REx has learned, the mission team now knows they will have to work extra hard to characterize and map the surface of Bennu before they start sampling.

The OSIRIS-REx team previously expected a generally smooth surface with a few large boulders on Bennu, but it turned out that Bennu's entire surface is rough and dense with boulders.

Several previous studies suggested that meteorites or similar extraterrestrial bodies from our Solar System's asteroid belt may have been responsible for bringing water to Earth. "OSIRIS-REx's sample will help us answer some of the biggest questions about where we come from". The original mission design was based on a sample site that is hazard-free, with an 25-metre radius.

OSIRIS-REx will now have to be flown to a smaller area where boulders are less concentrated. The large, light-colored boulder just below the center of the image is about 24 feet wide, which is roughly half the width of a basketball court.

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