Asteroid Bennu has been an interesting target for a long time, and the OSIRIS-REx mission sent by NASA seeks to gather more information about the asteroid. A surprising discovery was made recently as researchers from the OSIRIS-REx team has observed some unusual rocks on the surface of the asteroid.
Additional research has revealed that the unusual rocks come from a different asteroid called Vesta. The spacecraft, which is currently preparing for a sample collection attempt that will take place next month, has managed to send important information about the fragments.
The rocks range in size between 1.5 to 4.3 meters (or 5 to 14 feet) and are easy to spot in comparison to background rocks, which are considerably darker. Tests have revealed the presence of pyroxene, a mineral found on Vesta.
One of the theories related to the strange rocks argues that they might have become stuck on the surface of Bennu after a vestoid, which is a larger rock fragment from Asteroid Vesta, crashed into the parent asteroid, dislodging debris that has found their way to Bennu.
While fragments of one asteroid have been spotted on other asteroids in the past, the discovery remains remarkable, especially since Vesta has been surveyed by NASA researchers in the past, reaching the object during the Dawn mission in 2011. Both Vesta and Bennu are incredibly old as they formed during the early days of the solar system.
The main aim of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to collect more information about such ancient objects, allowing research to learn more about the formation of the universe and the conditions that could be encountered in the distant past. NASA will now try to obtain samples from Bennu and Vesta during the sample collection event.
If everything goes according to plan, the spacecraft will return to Earth in September 2023, along with a treasure trove of samples.