High‐Resolution Thermophysical Analysis of the OSIRIS‐REx Sample Site and Three Other Regions of Interest on Bennu

Rozitis, B.; Ryan, A. J.; Emery, J. P.; Nolan, M. C.; Green, S. F.; Christensen, P. R.; Hamilton, V. E.; Daly, M. G.; Barnouin, O. S. and Lauretta, D. S. (2022). High‐Resolution Thermophysical Analysis of the OSIRIS‐REx Sample Site and Three Other Regions of Interest on Bennu. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 127(6), article no. e2021JE007153.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JE007153


The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer) spacecraft sampled asteroid (101955) Bennu on 20 October 2020 and will return the collected regolith to Earth in 2023. Before sample collection, spectral observations of four regions of interest on Bennu's surface were acquired at high spatial resolution (2–9 m per spectrometer spot) to identify the most suitable site for sampling and provide contextual information for the returned sample. In this study, we investigate thermal-infrared (6–50 μm) observations of these four regions, including the site that OSIRIS-REx ultimately sampled, using the Advanced Thermophysical Model with input digital terrain models derived from laser altimetry. From model-to-measurement comparisons, we find that the observed brightness temperatures depend strongly on small-scale topography, local variations in thermal inertia, and the observation phase angle. Thermal inertia mapping reveals spatial variations that distinguish the different boulder types found on Bennu. A boulder bearing carbonate veins has higher thermal inertia than average, suggesting that cementation processes reduced its porosity. The thermal inertia of the site sampled is 190 ± 30 J m−2 K−1 s−1/2, which is consistent with observations of a fine-grained regolith mixed with porous rocks. Thermophysical modeling of the site sampled predicts that the maximum temperatures experienced by the collected sample while on Bennu were 357 ± 3 and 261 ± 3 K for the surface and 50 cm depth, respectively. We predict that OSIRIS-REx will return a sample with thermophysical properties unique from those of meteorites.

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