The results of the new study – which was published in the journal Science Advances on October 8 this year – indicate that the inner part of the asteroid “Bennu” may be weaker and less dense than its outer layers, as it resembles an egg. Of chocolate stuffed with cream, and fly in space.
A team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder – a team from the NASA Osiris-REx mission (OSIRIS-REx) of NASA – announced that they were able to discover what the internal structure of the asteroid Bennu was.
The spacecraft “Osiris Rex” had met with the asteroid Benno in late 2018, which is an asteroid orbiting the sun at a distance of more than 200 million miles from Earth.
Since then, the spacecraft – built by Lockheed Martin and based in Colorado – has studied the asteroid more accurately than any other asteroid in the history of space exploration.
Using Osiris Rex’s navigation tools, it took the mission team nearly two years to map the tides in the gravitational field of the asteroid Bennu in order to determine where the mass centered at its core.
By 2020, the mission announced that the asteroid’s core is weaker than its outer shell, a fact that could jeopardize its survival in the near future.
Bennu is classified within the category of small bodies that scientists used to call a “rubble pile,” which, as its name suggests, resembles weakly coherent piles of debris.
It is known that asteroids change over time due to sunlight, for example, as it is the factor that affects how they rotate and collide with other asteroids.
And when “Osiris Rex” spotted the asteroid Benno for the first time, the team noticed something unusual that happened repeatedly, as there seemed to be small spherical particles, as if they were launching from the asteroid and going towards space, and in many cases these small balls were orbiting Benno before they fell once Others on its surface.
Members of the mission team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were able to directly see how the gravitational field there was operating.
And it was like having someone on the surface of the asteroid throw these balls so they could be tracked. Indeed, the team was able to deduce the gravitational field in Bennu by tracking the paths these particles took.
When observing the asteroid Bennu for the first time, the researchers assumed that it was a homogeneous pile of rubble internally and externally. However, after studying its gravitational records and comparing them with the observational information obtained from the mission, “Osiris Rex,” the team discovered something surprising as it appears as if there is a vacuum in the asteroid’s core.
The researchers suggest that the rotation of the asteroid is responsible for this vacuum as it rotates faster and faster over time, which could contribute to pushing materials slowly towards its surface away from the asteroid’s center. In other words, if the Bennu nucleus is of low density, it will be easier to dismantle the entire asteroid in the near future.
Finally, the researchers hope that the results of this study will provide new insights into the evolution of solar system asteroids over the years.