Bennu is already proving to be an intriguing target. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona
NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe seems to have hit the jackpot within a week of arriving at its destination.
Measuring approximately 500 meters in diameter, Bennu has long been of interest to scientists because of its potential to teach us more about the earliest days of the solar system.
The discovery of hydrated minerals suggests that Bennu's parent body - a 62-mile-wide rock - was once home to a plentiful supply of liquid water. Bennu itself likely formed from the debris that remained following a major collision hundreds of millions of years ago.
The find opens the door to the possibility that asteroids like Bennu may have played a part in delivering water - as well as the building blocks of life - to Earth in the distant past.
"We targeted Bennu precisely because we thought it had water-bearing minerals and, by analogy with the carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that we've been studying, organic material," said OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta.
"That still remains to be seen - we have not detected the organics - but it definitely looks like we've gone to the right place."