Astronomers already knew that the Bennu asteroid is weird ever since they first found it with the help of the LINEAR Project more than two decades ago. The space rock is a carbonaceous asteroid from the Apollo group, and it’s also considered a potentially hazardous object that has a mass of 78 billion kg.
But just like things generally go in astronomy, the Bennu asteroid becomes even weirder than before.
Building blocks of life existing on Bennu?
According to new research based on data gathered by NASA using the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, scientists found clues of building blocks of life existing on Bennu. One of the researches, led by Amy Simon of NASA Goddard, found evidence of organic and carbon-bearing materials that were spread across the surface of the asteroid.
The materials are located in veins running through rocks covering the surface of the asteroid, and one way they could be formed was as a result of free-flowing water spread on the former appearance of Bennu from many years ago.
Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of OSIRIS-Rex, declared:
The abundance of carbon-bearing material is a major scientific triumph for the mission,
We are now optimistic that we will collect and return a sample with organic material – a central goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission.
However, we shouldn’t expect to encounter on Bennu any little green men with pointy years who are eager to shake hands with us. It’s most likely microbial life dwelling on the controversial space rock, but we’ll soon have more definitive answers after NASA lands its space probe on the asteroid.
As NASA plans to land the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft on the Bennu asteroid in several days, it will be interesting to see what data the mission will bring back to Earth.