Per a new study from physicists at CU Boulder, tiny dust grains may roam around on the surface of asteroids. That popcorn-like impact may help clean up more minor asteroids, causing them to lose dust and seem rough and ragged from space.
The researchers circulated their results on July 11th in the journal Nature Astronomy. “Their outcomes may assist scientists to better understand the way asteroids change shape over time and how these structures move through space, occasionally bringing them dangerously near Earth Earth, “said Hsiang-Wen Hsu, co-lead author of the research.
“The more fine-grained material, or regolith, these asteroids lose, the faster they migrate,” explained Hsu, a research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder.
In 2020, a NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx journeyed more than 1 billion miles to rendezvous along with the asteroid (191055) named Bennu, which is almost as tall as the Empire State Building. However, scientists didn’t get what they were expecting when the spacecraft arrived. The asteroid’s texture looked like rough sandpaper, not smooth and dusty as researchers had expected. There were even boulders that were the size of houses and trucks dispersed over its exterior.
Hsu and his colleagues have opted for computer simulations, models, and laboratory operations to explore that puzzle. He said, “forces similar to static electricity may be kicking the smallest grains of dust, some no bigger than a single bacterium, off the asteroid and into space—leaving only larger rocks behind.”