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Pieces of the asteroid Vesta on Bennu magnified. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Scientists have found pieces of asteroid Vesta on asteroid Bennu's surface.

Why it matters: The new finding — detailed in the journal Nature Astronomy — gives researchers some insight into the origins of Bennu, a space rock that's actually a collection of rubble that came together after a huge collision, NASA said.

How it works: Scientists found evidence of the rocks from Vesta in photos taken by OSIRIS-REx, a spacecraft in orbit around Bennu now.

  • The Vesta boulders contain a mineral known as pyroxene that's produced in high heat and likely didn't come from Bennu.
  • "Our leading hypothesis is that Bennu inherited this material from its parent asteroid after a vestoid (a fragment from Vesta) struck the parent," NASA's Hannah Kaplan said in a statement.
  • That parent asteroid was then broken apart and eventually some of its material — including those bits of Vesta — coalesced into Bennu, Kaplan added.

The big picture: The asteroid belt is a messy place. Asteroids often show signs of interactions with one another. Vesta, for example, has dark material on the walls of its craters that is thought to come from another object.

  • Scientists think Bennu — which now has an orbit similar to Earth's — came from the inner part of the main belt of asteroids between Jupiter and Mars.
  • "There are two inner Main Belt asteroid families (Polana and Eulalia) that look like Bennu: dark and rich in carbon, making them likely candidates for Bennu's parent," NASA said.

What's next: OSIRIS-REx is expected to touch down on Bennu next month to collect a sample that will be delivered back to Earth in 2023.

Go deeper

How NASA and the Space Force might fare under Biden

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden hasn't gone out of his way to talk about outer space during his presidential campaign. That could be bad news for NASA's exploration ambitions, but good news for the Space Force.

The big picture: NASA faces two threats with any new administration: policy whiplash and budget cuts. In a potential Biden administration, the space agency could get to stay the course on the policy front, while competing with other priorities on the spending side.

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.