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Views of the asteroid Bennu from the spacecraft OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA/Goddard via the University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which has intercepted the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, has recently found molecular evidence of water locked deep inside the asteroid, NASA said Monday.

Why it matters: This is NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, and analyzing Bennu could provide scientists with a trove of new information about the asteroid's composition and ultimately lead to new discoveries about how life evolved in the universe. Asteroids are time capsules of the early solar system and are believed to contain information about the origins of planets and the natural resources that enabled life to develop.

Details: Data obtained from the spacecraft’s two spectrometers show that molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen bonded together, known as hydroxyls, are present on the asteroid. Researchers involved in the project think that hydroxyls are located across the asteroid in water-containing clay minerals.

  • This revelation means that water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, which was a much larger asteroid, according to NASA. This confirms scientists' suspicions about this asteroid, which made it a prime target for a mission in the first place. Bennu is considered to be too small to currently host liquid water.

What's next: OSIRIS-REx will attempt to land on the asteroid to retrieve samples and return them to Earth in 2023. Such analysis could greatly improve our understanding of asteroid composition as well as prove concepts that could be used in new industries, such as space mining.

Go deeper: NASA spacecraft arrives at near-Earth asteroid Bennu

Go deeper

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California, Oregon and Washington state.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

3 hours ago - World

Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.