Photometry of Particles Ejected From Active Asteroid (101955) Bennu

C. W. Hergenrother, C. Maleszewski, J. Y. Li, M. Pajola, S. R. Chesley, A. S. French, A. B. Davis, J. Y. Pelgrift, J. M. Leonard, F. Shelly, A. J. Liounis, K. Becker, S. S. Balram-Knutson, R. Garcia, T. R. Kareta, C. Adam, K. Alkiek, B. J. Bos, M. Brozović, K. N. BurkeE. Christensen, B. E. Clark, D. N. DellaGiustina, C. Drouet d'Aubigny, D. Farnocchia, E. S. Howell, R. A. Jacobson, J. N. Kidd, E. J. Lessac-Chenen, R. Melikyan, M. C. Nolan, R. S. Park, S. Selznick, B. Rizk, D. S. Lauretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu is an active asteroid experiencing mass loss in the form of ejection events emitting up to hundreds of millimeter- to centimeter-scale particles. The close proximity of the Origins, Spectral Interpretations, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer spacecraft enabled monitoring of particles for a 10-month period encompassing Bennu's perihelion and aphelion. We found 18 multiparticle ejection events, with masses ranging from near zero to hundreds of grams (or thousands with uncertainties) and translational kinetic energies ranging from near zero to tens of millijoules (or hundreds with uncertainties). We estimate that Bennu ejects ~104 g per orbit. The largest event took place on 6 January 2019 and consisted of ~200 particles. The observed mass and translational kinetic energy of the event were between 459 and 528 g and 62 and 77 mJ, respectively. Hundreds of particles not associated with the multiparticle ejections were also observed. Photometry of the best-observed particles, measured at phase angles between ~70° and 120°, was used to derive a linear phase coefficient of 0.013 ± 0.005 magnitudes per degree of phase angle. Ground-based data back to 1999 show no evidence of past activity for Bennu; however, the currently observed activity is orders of magnitude lower than observed at other active asteroids and too low be observed remotely. There appears to be a gentle decrease in activity with distance from the Sun, suggestive of ejection processes such as meteoroid impacts and thermal fracturing, although observational bias may be a factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JE006381
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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