Signs Of Water Found On Asteroid Bennu


  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper III
  • Sci-tech, asteroid Bennu, NASA Spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx

 Why in News?

  • Scientists discovered evidence of water on asteroid Bennu using the data from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
  • ASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft discovered evidence of water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, Bennu, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.
  • OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu, some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules– part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life – embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.
  • The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sunat roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.
  • From August through early December this year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft aimed three of its science instruments toward Bennuand began making the mission’s first observations of the asteroid.
  • Data obtained from the spacecraft’s two spectrometers, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS)and the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) revealed the presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together, known as ‘hydroxyls.’

What is Spectroscopy?

  • Spectroscopy is the technique of splitting light (or more precisely electromagnetic radiation) into its constituent wavelengths (a spectrum), in much the same way as a prism splits light into a rainbow of colours.
  • However, in general, a spectrum is generally more than a simple ‘rainbow’ of colours.
  • The energy levels of electrons in atoms and molecules are quantised, and the absorption and emission of electromagnetic radiation only occurs at specific wavelengths.
  • Consequently, spectra are not smooth but punctuated by ‘lines’ of absorption or emission.
  • In simple terms, Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation.
  • Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, by a prism.


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