OSIRIS-REx probe spots asteroid hurling chunks

Asteroid Bennu

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 19 was created by combining two images taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Other processing techniques were applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. (NASA / Goddard / Univ. of Arizona / Lockheed Martin)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has spotted something that hasn’t been seen up close on an asteroid before: plumes of particles erupting into space.

The mission’s scientists shared pictures of the plumes as well as the unexpectedly rugged terrain on the asteroid, known as Bennu, today at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. They also published a set of seven papers about their findings in the journal Nature.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, said in a news release. “And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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