Widespread carbon-bearing materials on near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu

1Amy A. Simon et al. (>10)
Science 370, eabc3522 Link to Article [DOI: 10.1126/science.abc3522]
1Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA.
Reprinted with Permission from AAAS

Asteroid (101955) Bennu is a dark asteroid on an Earth-crossing orbit that is thought to have assembled from the fragments of an ancient collision. We use spatially resolved visible and near-infrared spectra of Bennu to investigate its surface properties and composition. In addition to a hydrated phyllosilicate band, we detect a ubiquitous 3.4-micrometer absorption feature, which we attribute to a mix of organic and carbonate materials. The shape and depth of this absorption feature vary across Bennu’s surface, spanning the range seen among similar main-belt asteroids. The distribution of the absorption feature does not correlate with temperature, reflectance, spectral slope, or hydrated minerals, although some of those characteristics correlate with each other. The deepest 3.4-micrometer absorptions occur on individual boulders. The variations may be due to differences in abundance, recent exposure, or space weathering.

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