NASA, the US space agency, will broadcast live the landing of the Osiris-REx spacecraft on the surface of the mysterious Bennu, one of the most studied asteroids in recent astronomy. The date for the descent of the ship is set for this Tuesday (20).
The NASA broadcast will begin at 6:00 pm (Brasília time) and the landing is scheduled for 7:12 pm (Brasília time). During the mission, samples of the asteroid will be collected and brought to Earth. The collection attempt will also be shown live.
According to NASA, Bennu contains material from the beginning of the solar system and may contain the molecular precursors of Earth’s life and oceans.
The Osiris-Rex spacecraft, which is about the size of a 15-passenger van, has been in orbit around Bennu for almost two years. With all this time of data collection, the researchers were able to create a 3D map of their terrain. You can even take a virtual tour to get a taste of what the asteroid looks like.
Bennu is almost the same height as the Empire State Building (381 meters), which is located in New York (USA), according to NASA.
The nickname of Determining is “asteroid of the apocalypse”. The term arose because of the probability, albeit remote, that one day it will hit Earth. NASA says the chance is that an in 2,700.
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Recent discoveries about Bennu
On the 9th, a scientific article was released with new discoveries about Bennu. The researchers observed the presence of “carbonate veins” (organic carbon-bearing material) scattered on the surface of the asteroid.
Some of these veins are one meter long and several centimeters thick. The discovery is evidence that water has already flowed freely over Bennu’s rocks, according to astronomers.
The results also call the researchers’ attention because the characteristics of the carbonate veins are similar to those of the material that helped to form the Earth.
These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material are likely to be present in the sample that will be collected by Osiris-Rex. Because of this, scientists also believe that Bennu may have harbored life at some point in its history.
The team also found that some regions of the asteroid have been exposed to space weathering, such as bombardment by cosmic rays and solar wind, for longer than others. This suggests that impact events exposed material from the asteroid at different times.
The Nightingale crater region, for example, where the probe is going to take samples of the surface, would have been exposed to the hostile space environment only recently. That is why the material that will be collected there should give a clearer picture of how things were at the beginning of the Solar System, the estimated period of Bennu’s formation.
In addition, another study found that there are two types of rocks in the asteroid: stronger and less porous rocks; and others that are weaker and more porous. The strongest are those that have “carbonate veins”, suggesting that interaction with water may ultimately produce stronger rocks as the liquid penetrates the holes.
But both types of rocks are weaker than expected. It is suspected that the dark rocks of the asteroid (the weakest, most porous and most common type) would not survive a journey through the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists think that the samples collected by the probe will provide answers, since this type of material is not currently represented in meteorite collections.
Scientists have yet to confirm why Bennu ejects particles into space and how they are being ejected from the asteroid. But studies show that the way these particles “fly” up and down is a useful tool for taking a peek inside the celestial body.
* With material by Mirthyani Bezerra