Research Article

Bright carbonate veins on asteroid (101955) Bennu: Implications for aqueous alteration history

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Science  08 Oct 2020:
eabc3557
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc3557

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Abstract

The composition of asteroids and their connection to meteorites provide insight into geologic processes that occurred in the early Solar System. We present spectra of the Nightingale crater region on near-Earth asteroid Bennu with a distinct infrared absorption around 3.4 μm. Corresponding images of boulders show centimeters-thick, roughly meter-long bright veins. We interpret the veins as being composed of carbonates, similar to those found in aqueously altered carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. If the veins on Bennu are carbonates, fluid flow and hydrothermal deposition on Bennu’s parent body would have occurred on kilometer scales for thousands to millions of years. This suggests large-scale, open-system hydrothermal alteration of carbonaceous asteroids in the early Solar System.

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