Properties of rubble-pile asteroid (101955) Bennu from OSIRIS-REx imaging and thermal analysis

DellaGiustina, D. N.; Emery, J. P.; Golish, D. R.; Rozitis, Benjamin; Bennett, C. A.; Burke, K. N.; Ballouz, R.-L.; Becker, K. J.; Christensen, P. R.; Drouet d’Aubigny, C. Y.; Hamilton, V. E.; Reuter, D. C.; Rizk, B.; Simon, A. A.; Asphaug, E.; Bandfield, J. L.; Barnouin, O. S.; Barucci, M. A.; Bierhaus, E. B.; Binzel, R. P.; Bottke, W. F.; Bowles, N. E.; Campins, H.; Clark, B. C.; Clark, B. E.; Connolly, H. C.; Daly, M. G.; Leon, J. de; Delbo’, M.; Deshapriya, J. D. P.; Elder, C. M.; Fornasier, S.; Hergenrother, C. W.; Howell, E. S.; Jawin, E. R.; Kaplan, H. H.; Kareta, T. R.; Le Corre, L.; Li, J.-Y.; Licandro, J.; Lim, L. F.; Michel, P.; Molaro, J.; Nolan, M. C.; Pajola, M.; Popescu, M.; Garcia, J. L. Rizos; Ryan, A.; Schwartz, S. R.; Shultz, N.; Siegler, M. A.; Smith, P. H.; Tatsumi, E.; Thomas, C. A.; Walsh, K. J.; Wolner, C. W. V.; Zou, X.-D. and Lauretta, D. S. (2019). Properties of rubble-pile asteroid (101955) Bennu from OSIRIS-REx imaging and thermal analysis. Nature Astronomy, 3 pp. 341–351.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0731-1

Abstract

Establishing the abundance and physical properties of regolith and boulders on asteroids is crucial for understanding the formation and degradation mechanisms at work on their surfaces. Using images and thermal data from NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, we show that asteroid (101955) Bennu’s surface is globally rough, dense with boulders, and low in albedo. The number of boulders is surprising given Bennu’s moderate thermal inertia, suggesting that simple models linking thermal inertia to particle size do not adequately capture the complexity relating these properties. At the same time, we find evidence for a wide range of particle sizes with distinct albedo characteristics. Our findings imply that ages of Bennu’s surface particles span from the disruption of the asteroid’s parent body (boulders) to recent in situ production (micrometre-scale particles).

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