Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image.
The object of an ambitious effort to touch the surface of a massive rock hurtling through space and retrieve a sample of it to bring back to Earth, Asteroid Bennu was supposed to have a smooth surface. The $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) began with the launch of the spacecraft on September 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA project manager Rich Burns said: "Throughout OSIRIS-REx's operations near Bennu, our spacecraft and operations team have demonstrated that we can achieve system performance that beats design requirements".
Since OSIRIS-REx found the first plume in early January, scientists despatched up instructions for the spacecraft to make an extra systematic seek for the particles streams. However, most scientists think additional water was delivered in part by comets and pieces of asteroids, including water-bearing carbonaceous meteorites, Hamilton said.
Lauretta stated the plume discovery at Bennu was one of many most massive surprises of his scientific profession.
Prof Lauretta added: "Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started". At that point, the team increased the frequency of observations, finding the dust ejection was not a one-time event - Bennu does this continuously.
On Tuesday, they announced that Bennu's surface is actually covered in boulders, making an eventual touchdown for a spacecraft that much more hard to navigate. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission. Lauretta and his colleagues determined that the particles didn't pose a hazard to the spacecraft, and they're continuing to analyze the plumes and their possible causes. However, the spacecraft has left its orbit round Bennu and is flying at higher distances from the asteroid, which might preclude such observations. Large rocks and boulders are peppered across Bennu's surface.
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Experts had expected Bennu's surface to be relatively smooth and even, but instead it is described as rough and densely covered in boulders. The space rock has much more - and quite larger - boulders than NASA had expected, forcing the team to adjust its planned sample collection mission.
If everything goes according to plan, the probe will spend the next two years studying Bennu, then secure a sample from the surface before heading back to Earth in March 2021.
"Asteroids like Ryugu are considered as a potential source of Earth's water, so we are expecting that our results and the future analysis of Ryugu samples would provide new insights about the origin of Earth's water", he said.
"Thanks to the parallel missions of Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, we can finally address the question of how these two asteroids came to be", Sugita said.
"Bennu has issued us a challenge to deal with its rugged terrain, and we are confident that OSIRIS-REx is up to the task".
"OSIRIS-REx data confirm previous ground-based observations pointing to aqueously altered, hydrated minerals on the surface of the asteroid", said Hamilton, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The large, light-colored boulder just below the center of the image is about 24 feet wide, which is roughly half the width of a basketball court.