Abstract

Small, kilometre-sized near-Earth asteroids are expected to have young and frequently refreshed surfaces for two reasons: collisional disruptions are frequent in the main asteroid belt where they originate, and thermal or tidal processes act on them once they become near-Earth asteroids. Here we present early measurements of numerous large candidate impact craters on near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) mission, which indicate a surface that is between 100 million and 1 billion years old, predating Bennu’s expected duration as a near-Earth asteroid. We also observe many fractured boulders, the morphology of which suggests an influence of impact or thermal processes over a considerable amount of time since the boulders were exposed at the surface. However, the surface also shows signs of more recent mass movement: clusters of boulders at topographic lows, a deficiency of small craters and infill of large craters. The oldest features likely record events from Bennu’s time in the main asteroid belt.

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Data availability

Raw through to calibrated datasets will be available via the Planetary Data System (PDS) (https://sbn.psi.edu/pds/resource/orex/). Data are delivered to the PDS according to the OSIRIS-REx Data Management Plan available in the OSIRIS-REx PDS archive. Higher-level products, for example, global mosaics and elevation maps, will be available in the PDS one year after departure from the asteroid.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Change history

  • 04 April 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.

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Acknowledgements

This material is based on work supported by NASA under contracts NNM10AA11C and NNH09ZDA007O issued through the New Frontiers Program. M.P. was supported for this research by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) under the ASI-INAF agreement no. 2017–37-H.0. M.D., P.M., and A.R. would like to acknowledge the French space agency CNES. M.D., A.R., P.M. and S.R.S acknowledge support from the Academies of Excellence on Complex Systems and Space, Environment, Risk and Resilience of the Initiative d’EXcellence ‘Joint, Excellent, and Dynamic Initiative’ (IDEX JEDI) of the Université Côte d’Azur. Part of this work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Author information

Author notes

  1. A list of participants and their affiliations appears in the online version of the paper.

Affiliations

  1. Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA

    • K. J. Walsh
    • , W. F. Bottke
    • , W. F. Bottke
    • , V. E. Hamilton
    • , H. H. Kaplan
    •  & K. J. Walsh
  2. Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, USA

    • E. R. Jawin
    • , T. J. McCoy
    • , E. R. Jawin
    •  & T. J. McCoy
  3. Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

    • R.-L. Ballouz
    • , S. R. Schwartz
    • , E. Asphaug
    • , K. J. Becker
    • , C. A. Bennett
    • , K. N. Burke
    • , D. N. DellaGiustina
    • , D. R. Golish
    • , R. Malhotra
    • , M. C. Nolan
    • , B. Rizk
    • , D. S. Lauretta
    • , M. Arvizu-Jakubicki
    • , E. Asphaug
    • , E. Audi
    • , R.-L. Ballouz
    • , R. Bandrowski
    • , K. J. Becker
    • , T. L. Becker
    • , S. Bendall
    • , C. A. Bennett
    • , H. Bloomenthal
    • , D. Blum
    • , W. V. Boynton
    • , J. Brodbeck
    • , K. N. Burke
    • , M. Chojnacki
    • , A. Colpo
    • , J. Contreras
    • , J. Cutts
    • , C. Y. Drouet d’Aubigny
    • , D. Dean
    • , D. N. DellaGiustina
    • , B. Diallo
    • , D. Drinnon
    • , K. Drozd
    • , H. L. Enos
    • , R. Enos
    • , C. Fellows
    • , T. Ferro
    • , M. R. Fisher
    • , G. Fitzgibbon
    • , M. Fitzgibbon
    • , J. Forelli
    • , T. Forrester
    • , I. Galinsky
    • , R. Garcia
    • , A. Gardner
    • , D. R. Golish
    • , N. Habib
    • , D. Hamara
    • , D. Hammond
    • , K. Hanley
    • , K. Harshman
    • , C. W. Hergenrother
    • , K. Herzog
    • , D. Hill
    • , C. Hoekenga
    • , S. Hooven
    • , E. S. Howell
    • , E. Huettner
    • , A. Janakus
    • , J. Jones
    • , T. R. Kareta
    • , J. Kidd
    • , K. Kingsbury
    • , S. S. Balram-Knutson
    • , L. Koelbel
    • , J. Kreiner
    • , D. Lambert
    • , D. S. Lauretta
    • , C. Lewin
    • , B. Lovelace
    • , M. Loveridge
    • , M. Lujan
    • , C. K. Maleszewski
    • , R. Malhotra
    • , K. Marchese
    • , E. McDonough
    • , N. Mogk
    • , V. Morrison
    • , E. Morton
    • , R. Munoz
    • , J. Nelson
    • , M. C. Nolan
    • , J. Padilla
    • , R. Pennington
    • , A. Polit
    • , N. Ramos
    • , V. Reddy
    • , M. Riehl
    • , B. Rizk
    • , H. L. Roper
    • , S. Salazar
    • , S. R. Schwartz
    • , S. Selznick
    • , N. Shultz
    • , P. H. Smith
    • , S. Stewart
    • , S. Sutton
    • , T. Swindle
    • , Y. H. Tang
    • , M. Westermann
    • , C. W. V. Wolner
    • , D. Worden
    • , T. Zega
    • , Z. Zeszut
    •  & S. Russell
  4. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA

    • O. S. Barnouin
    • , M. E. Perry
    • , O. S. Barnouin
    • , K. Craft
    • , R. T. Daly
    • , C. Ernst
    • , R. C. Espiritu
    • , M. Holdridge
    • , M. Jones
    • , A. H. Nair
    • , L. Nguyen
    • , J. Peachey
    • , M. E. Perry
    • , J. Plescia
    • , J. H. Roberts
    •  & R. Steele
  5. Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, CO, USA

    • E. B. Bierhaus
    • , E. B. Bierhaus
    • , O. Billett
    • , A. Boggs
    • , B. Buck
    • , S. Carlson-Kelly
    • , J. Cerna
    • , K. Chaffin
    • , E. Church
    • , M. Coltrin
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    • , A. Deguzman
    • , R. Dubisher
    • , D. Eckart
    • , D. Ellis
    • , P. Falkenstern
    • , A. Fisher
    • , M. E. Fisher
    • , P. Fleming
    • , K. Fortney
    • , S. Francis
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    • , S. Gonzales
    • , P. Haas
    • , A. Hasten
    • , D. Hauf
    • , A. Hilbert
    • , D. Howell
    • , F. Jaen
    • , N. Jayakody
    • , M. Jenkins
    • , K. Johnson
    • , M. Lefevre
    • , H. Ma
    • , C. Mario
    • , K. Martin
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    • , A. Mirfakhrai
    • , E. Muhle
    • , C. Norman
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    • , C. Parish
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    • , M. Skeen
    • , M. Susak
    • , B. Sutter
    • , Q. Tran
    • , C. Welch
    • , R. Witherspoon
    • , J. Wood
    •  & J. Zareski
  6. Department of Geology, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ, USA

    • H. C. Connolly Jr.
    •  & H. C. Connolly Jr.
  7. Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ, USA

    • J. L. Molaro
    • , C. L. Johnson
    • , R. W. Gaskell
    • , L. Le Corre
    • , J.-Y. Li
    • , J. L. Molaro
    • , E. E. Palmer
    • , M. A. Siegler
    • , P. Tricarico
    • , J. R. Weirich
    •  & X.-D. Zou
  8. Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Laboratoire Lagrange, Nice, France

    • M. Delbo’
    • , P. Michel
    • , A. Ryan
    • , F. Thuillet
    • , M. Delbó
    • , G. Libourel
    • , P. Michel
    • , A. Ryan
    •  & F. Thuillet
  9. Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

    • C. M. Hartzell
    •  & C. M. Hartzell
  10. INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Padova, Italy

    • M. Pajola
    •  & M. Pajola
  11. Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA

    • D. Trang
    •  & D. Trang
  12. SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA, USA

    • C. B. Beddingfield
    • , J. Marshall
    • , C. B. Beddingfield
    •  & J. Marshall
  13. Space Science Institute, Boulder, CO, USA

    • B. C. Clark
    • , J. L. Bandfield
    •  & B. C. Clark
  14. The Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • M. G. Daly
    • , M. G. Daly
    • , J. Freemantle
    •  & J. A. Seabrook
  15. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

    • J. P. Dworkin
    • , A. Aqueche
    • , B. Ashman
    • , M. Barker
    • , A. Bartels
    • , K. Berry
    • , B. Bos
    • , R. Burns
    • , A. Calloway
    • , R. Carpenter
    • , N. Castro
    • , R. Cosentino
    • , J. Donaldson
    • , J. P. Dworkin
    • , J. Elsila Cook
    • , C. Emr
    • , D. Everett
    • , D. Fennell
    • , K. Fleshman
    • , D. Folta
    • , D. Gallagher
    • , J. Garvin
    • , K. Getzandanner
    • , D. Glavin
    • , S. Hull
    • , K. Hyde
    • , H. Ido
    • , A. Ingegneri
    • , N. Jones
    • , P. Kaotira
    • , L. F. Lim
    • , A. Liounis
    • , C. Lorentson
    • , D. Lorenz
    • , J. Lyzhoft
    • , E. M. Mazarico
    • , R. Mink
    • , W. Moore
    • , M. Moreau
    • , S. Mullen
    • , J. Nagy
    • , G. Neumann
    • , J. Nuth
    • , D. Poland
    • , D. C. Reuter
    • , L. Rhoads
    • , S. Rieger
    • , D. Rowlands
    • , D. Sallitt
    • , A. Scroggins
    • , G. Shaw
    • , A. A. Simon
    • , J. Swenson
    • , P. Vasudeva
    • , M. Wasser
    •  & R. Zellar
  16. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

    • C. M. Elder
    • , J. Bellerose
    • , S. Bhaskaran
    • , C. Boyles
    • , S. R. Chesley
    • , C. M. Elder
    • , D. Farnocchia
    • , A. Harbison
    • , B. Kennedy
    • , A. Knight
    • , N. Martinez-Vlasoff
    • , N. Mastrodemos
    • , T. McElrath
    • , W. Owen
    • , R. Park
    • , B. Rush
    • , L. Swanson
    • , Y. Takahashi
    • , D. Velez
    •  & K. Yetter
  17. Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

    • A. R. Hildebrand
    • , F. Ciceri
    • , A. R. Hildebrand
    •  & E.-M. Ibrahim
  18. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

    • S. A. Sandford
    • , S. A. Sandford
    •  & R. Turner
  19. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • D. J. Scheeres
    • , D. N. Brack
    • , A. S. French
    • , J. W. McMahon
    •  & D. J. Scheeres
  20. Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

    • H. C. M. Susorney
    • , M. M. Al Asad
    • , C. L. Johnson
    • , L. Philpott
    •  & H. C. M. Susorney
  21. Aerospace Corporation, Chantilly, VA, USA

    • D. E. Highsmith
    •  & J. Small
  22. Astronomical Institute, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

    • D. Vokrouhlický
  23. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • N. E. Bowles
    • , E. Brown
    • , K. L. Donaldson Hanna
    •  & T. Warren
  24. Canadian Space Agency, Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada

    • C. Brunet
    • , R. A. Chicoine
    • , S. Desjardins
    • , D. Gaudreau
    • , T. Haltigin
    • , S. Millington-Veloza
    •  & A. Rubi
  25. Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA

    • J. Aponte
    • , N. Gorius
    •  & A. Lunsford
  26. Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • B. Allen
    • , J. Grindlay
    • , D. Guevel
    • , D. Hoak
    •  & J. Hong
  27. Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • D. L. Schrader
  28. City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

    • J. Bayron
  29. Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • O. Golubov
    •  & P. Sánchez
  30. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

    • J. Stromberg
  31. Department of Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

    • M. Hirabayashi
  32. Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ, USA

    • S. Oliver
    •  & M. Rascon
  33. Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

    • A. Harch
    • , J. Joseph
    •  & S. Squyres
  34. Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

    • D. Richardson
  35. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

    • J. P. Emery
    •  & L. McGraw
  36. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • R. Ghent
  37. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • R. P. Binzel
  38. Department of Geography, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

    • E. A. Cloutis
  39. Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA

    • R. D. Hanna
  40. Department of Geosciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA

    • L. Breitenfeld
    • , T. Glotch
    •  & A. D. Rogers
  41. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, USA

    • B. E. Clark
    •  & S. Ferrone
  42. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

    • C. A. Thomas
  43. Department of Physics, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA

    • H. Campins
    •  & Y. Fernandez
  44. Edge Space Systems, Greenbelt, MD, USA

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  45. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Denver, CO, USA

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  46. Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

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    •  & H. Yurimoto
  47. INAF–Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri, Florence, Italy

    • J. R. Brucato
    •  & G. Poggiali
  48. INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Rome, Italy

    • E. Dotto
    •  & E. Mazzotta Epifani
  49. Indigo Information Services, Tucson, AZ, USA

    • M. K. Crombie
  50. Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, CNRS/Université Paris Sud, Orsay, France

    • C. Lantz
  51. Institute for Planetary Materials, Okayama University–Misasa, Misasa, Japan

    • M. R. M. Izawa
  52. Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain

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    •  & J. L. Rizos Garcia
  53. Jacobs Technology, Houston, TX, USA

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    •  & K. Thomas-Keprta
  54. JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Sagamihara, Japan

    • S. Van wal
    • , M. Yoshikawa
    •  & S.-i. Watanabe
  55. Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • C. Thayer
  56. KinetX Aerospace, Inc., Simi Valley, CA, USA

    • C. Adam
    • , P. Antreasian
    • , J. Bauman
    • , C. Bryan
    • , B. Carcich
    • , M. Corvin
    • , J. Geeraert
    • , J. Hoffman
    • , J. M. Leonard
    • , E. Lessac-Chenen
    • , A. Levine
    • , J. McAdams
    • , L. McCarthy
    • , D. Nelson
    • , B. Page
    • , J. Pelgrift
    • , E. Sahr
    • , K. Stakkestad
    • , D. Stanbridge
    • , D. Wibben
    • , B. Williams
    • , K. Williams
    •  & P. Wolff
  57. Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • P. Hayne
    •  & D. Kubitschek
  58. LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Univ. Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Meudon, France

    • M. A. Barucci
    • , J. D. P. Deshapriya
    • , S. Fornasier
    • , M. Fulchignoni
    • , P. Hasselmann
    • , F. Merlin
    •  & A. Praet
  59. Macdonald, Dettwiler, and Associates, Brampton, Ontario, Canada

    • A. Bjurstrom
    • , L. Bloomquist
    • , C. Dickinson
    • , E. Keates
    • , J. Liang
    • , V. Nifo
    • , A. Taylor
    •  & F. Teti
  60. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

    • M. Caplinger
  61. Mars Space Flight Facility, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • H. Bowles
    • , S. Carter
    • , S. Dickenshied
    • , D. Doerres
    • , T. Fisher
    • , W. Hagee
    • , J. Hill
    • , M. Miner
    • , D. Noss
    • , N. Piacentine
    • , M. Smith
    • , A. Toland
    •  & P. Wren
  62. Mines ParisTech, Paris, France

    • M. Bernacki
    •  & D. Pino Munoz
  63. Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan

    • S.-i. Watanabe
  64. NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, USA

    • J. Grossman
    • , G. Johnston
    • , M. Morris
    •  & J. Wendel
  65. NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA

    • A. Burton
    • , L. P. Keller
    • , L. McNamara
    • , S. Messenger
    • , K. Nakamura-Messenger
    • , A. Nguyen
    •  & K. Righter
  66. NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA

    • E. Queen
  67. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, USA

    • K. Bellamy
    • , K. Dill
    • , S. Gardner
    • , M. Giuntini
    • , B. Key
    • , J. Kissell
    • , D. Patterson
    • , D. Vaughan
    •  & B. Wright
  68. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

    • T. Ireland
  69. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • K. Tait
  70. School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

    • P. Bland
  71. School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • S. Anwar
    • , N. Bojorquez-Murphy
    • , P. R. Christensen
    • , C. W. Haberle
    • , G. Mehall
    •  & K. Rios
  72. School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

    • I. Franchi
    •  & B. Rozitis
  73. Southwest Meteorite Laboratory, Payson, AZ, USA

    • M. Killgore
  74. Space Systems Laboratory, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • M. Chodas
    • , M. Lambert
    •  & R. A. Masterson
  75. US Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

    • J. Backer
    • , K. Edmundson
    • , J. Mapel
    • , M. Milazzo
    •  & S. Sides
  76. London Stereoscopic Company, London, UK

    • C. Manzoni
    •  & B. May
  77. Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France

    • B. Marty

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Consortia

  1. The OSIRIS-REx Team

Contributions

K.J.W. led the mapping, analysis and manuscript writing. E.R.J., R.-L.B., O.S.B., E.B.B., H.C.C., J.L.M. and T.J.M. contributed to the mapping, analysis and writing of the manuscript. D.S.L. leads the mission and contributed to analysis and writing. M.D., C.M.H., M.P., S.R.S. and D.T. contributed to mapping and manuscript writing. E.A., K.J.B., C.B.B., W.F.B., C.A.B., K.N.B., B.C.C., M.G.D., D.N.D., J.P.D., C.M.E., D.R.G., A.R.H., R.M., J.M., P.M., M.C.N., M.E.P., B.R., A.R., D.J.S., H.C.C., S.A.S., H.C.M.S. and F.T. all contributed to the mapping, analysis or manuscript writing. The entire OSIRIS-REx Team made the Bennu encounter possible.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to K. J. Walsh.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0326-6

Further reading

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