OSIRIS-REx, the NASA spacecraft analysing the asteroid Bennu, has made a remarkable discovery which upends our existing knowledge of space rock behavior and environment by blasting out inexplicable plumes of dust.
The never-before-seen phenomenon was first noticed in January and has since been documented at least 11 times.
Some of the dust expelled was blown out into the void of space but the remainder was actually captured within Bennu’s orbit, falling back down and resting on the asteroid’s surface.
My team is also using navigation tools to help track and study the material Bennu is ejecting from its surface. This composite image from NavCam 1 shows the trajectories of particles released Jan. 19 (green arrows) and background stars (yellow diamonds). #BennuRevealed#LPSC2019pic.twitter.com/71tce1pyoE
— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) March 19, 2019
Curiously, however, at least four larger chunks of debris have remained in orbit around Bennu, potentially forming micro moons.
At the moment, the eruptions pose more questions than the OSIRIS-REx team have answers. The origin of these plumes and what exactly triggers them remains a mystery. (RT)